September 18, 2019
Stakeholders including members should note that section 7(1.1) of the Code requires that materials considered by Council be made available to the public promptly. There are very rare exceptions to exclude the public from the information being reviewed by or relied upon by Council (for example, where matters involving public security may be disclosed). CCO has a legal obligation to post the information upon which Council bases its decisions. Council considered in full, without editing, all individual submissions and comments made to CCO and individual council members on the proposed by-law changes including changes to By-law 6: Elections.
The materials reviewed by Council with respect to the By-law 6: Elections feedback were not posted in advance of the Council meeting on September 14, 2019, so Council could consider whether one of the exceptions to open discussion and posting of materials applied in this case. Council received legal advice and determined that it was important for the debate to occur in public. Council also concluded that there should be transparency as to the content of the submissions, even if some of the comments might be inaccurate, unflattering or otherwise inappropriate. In making that decision Council considered: the nature of the comments, the importance of the issue under discussion, the nature of the issue under discussion (in this case the rationale for the positions of various sides on the issue was squarely raised as an issue), the importance of making a decision about such an obviously controversial matter in public, the perception that would be created by redacting any portion of the materials, the delay that would be caused by going through hundreds of pages of materials and determining which portions were appropriate to post and which portions would be inappropriate to post (and the criteria for what was appropriate), the fact that many of the submissions were already in the public realm, and in fact some stakeholders had already broadly circulated their responses and specifically requested that their feedback be public, any perception that the redacting of some comments but not other comments might be done in an unbalanced manner, and the fact that most of the comments of a personal nature were made of persons in public or leadership positions, including Council members.
In the end, Council determined that the public interest was best served by being fully transparent on all submissions. However, anyone who is the subject of a personal comment will be given an opportunity respond to the comment and such a response would, absent exceptional circumstances (and subject to legal advice), be posted with the package as soon as possible after it was received. Please provide any such response as soon as possible (by Thursday, September 19, 2019 at 5:00 p.m.).
This was a difficult decision for Council to make, but in the end, Council was supportive of the need to be fully transparent. Stakeholders, including members, are strongly encouraged to take all reasonable steps to ensure submissions and comments with CCO and with each other are professional and respectful. There is room for healthy and respectful discourse concerning the important matters before CCO Council. Although CCO is not covered by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPDA) and is not required to obtain consent, we have amended the link to feedback to remove e-mail addresses and phone numbers without distinguishing between e-mail and contact information which is already on the public register since some individuals did not indicate that they were communicating from a personal device rather than from business coordinates. In addition, the Executive will be considering recommendations to the submissions process which may include for example a portal for stakeholders including members to upload their submissions and comments directly in real time. Any recommendations for changes in the process will be considered and approved by Council. Thank you for your ongoing engagement in CCO’s important public interest work and mandate.