Why are some meetings closed to the public?
Municipal councils, local boards and their committees must meet behind closed doors on occasion to deal with some matters. For example, if a municipality is being sued or if Council is considering purchasing a piece of land or if Council must deal with a labour relations issue then it is appropriate that it be able to do so at a closed meeting. The purpose of such a closed meeting is to receive information or give direction.
Local government in Ontario must be transparent and accountable. To this end, the Province has set the rules for a council, local board or a committee to go into a closed meeting. These rules are found in section 239 of the Municipal Act 2001, as amended. They must be strictly followed.
The permitted reasons for going into a closed meeting are:
- the security of property of the municipality or local board;
- Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including employees;
- A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land;
- Labour relations or employee negotiations;
- Litigation or potential litigation
- Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege;
- A matter authorized by another provincial statute;
- If the subject matter relates to a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information or Protection of Privacy Act;
- The meeting is held for educating and training and no member discusses or deals with a matter in a way that materially advances the business decision-making of the council or local board.
As of January 1, 2008 any person or corporation will be able to request that an investigation be undertaken respecting whether a municipality or local board or committee of either, has complied with closed meeting rules outlined in the Municipal Act, 2001 or the applicable procedural by-law.
The Township of Howick has engaged the services of the Ontario Ombudsman as the Municipal Closed Meeting Investigator and has authorized it to conduct investigations upon receipt of a complaint in respect of meetings or parts of meetings that are closed to the public.
The investigator will determine compliance with the Act or the applicable procedural by-law with respect to closed meetings and will report on the results of such investigations.
The Ombudsman Ontario website may be viewed at:
Complaints may be submitted to Ombudsman Ontario through their website. using their online form at the following link: