Why are some meetings closed to the public?
Municipal Councils, local boards and 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 the property of the municipality or local board;
- personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;
- a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;
- labour relations or employee negotiations;
- litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;
- advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;
- a matter in respect of which council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act;
- information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them;
- a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization;
- a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value;
- a position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board;
- a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if the council, board, commission or other body is the head of an institution for the purposes of that Act;
- an ongoing investigation respecting the municipality, a local board or a municipally-controlled corporation by the Ombudsman appointed under the Ombudsman Act;
- for the purposes of educating or training the members.
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: