Oliver lifting curtain on secret meetings

New council policy will review in-camera meetings to determine if issues can be made public

It isn’t often that you hear of a government body taking action to bring concealed information into the public eye. But one municipal government in the South Okanagan is doing exactly that.

Oliver council has brought forward a policy that calls for a quarterly review of in-camera minutes, and the subsequent release of any resolutions adopted at those meetings that can be brought into the light of day.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes pointed to matters such as the conclusion of the sale of municipal property, when “it’s time to make those types of things public if they can be made public.”

And Oliver’s move toward transparency is part of a growing trend, according to the executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Society.

“As a society, we should be looking at having everything available unless there’s a very good reason not to,” said Vincent Gogolek.

And that trend could be making its way northward in the valley, as Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton plans to have the item added to the next council agenda.

We can only hope that Ashton’s colleagues around the council table will embrace the opportunity, and the trend towards more open and transparent government continues to take hold around the province and across the country.

There is no doubt that shedding light on previously closed-door meetings carries a degree of political risk. The inner workings of government are seldom pretty, and it would be easy to bow to the temptation to keep the public in the dark on matters that don’t show council in the best light.

But the strength of democracy has never been that it’s the easiest form of government. Its strength lies in the power of an informed public. And it’s actions like those of Oliver council that ensure democracy lives up to its potential.