If there were ever any question that city council makes its decisions in-camera before meeting with the public, last Monday’s meeting should put those doubts to rest.
Heading into the meeting, the agenda showed the Prince Rupert Airport Authority would be making its case to council about supporting a $7 million loan for needed improvements to the terminal, runway and access road. During the presentation, council kept telling the airport reps they would be voting on the loan later in the meeting, under the bylaws section of the agenda.
Little did they know, or anyone in the public know, council had already approved the loan during an earlier in-camera meeting, rendering the whole presentation and the vote on the bylaw completely moot.
And as if to pour a bit of salt in the proverbial wounds of open and transparent government, the announcement that council had authorized the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Prince Rupert Airport Authority behind close doors came right before council was to publicly vote on the subject.
Of course council is allowed to meet behind closed doors for a number of reasons, as long as they reference the applicable section of the Community Charter on the agenda for the in-camera meeting. In this case, council was to discuss honouring an individual, Watson Island, and the annual municipal report.
If you can figure out how an agreement approving a $7 million loan for the airport through the Municipal Finance Authority fits within these criteria, you may yet have a job in municipal politics.
The reality is there was no reason, outlined on the agenda or not, to vote on this in-camera, and to do so before the group needing the money has plead their case to the public is a slap in the face.
This latest incident gives just another black eye to a council that has been in a fight to gain the trust of the voters. It’s one from which they may not be able to bounce back.