Open your doors, Oxford

These pages are the online companion to a one-day feature published in print and online by the Sentinel-Review on Sept. 18, 2009. They are a result of a question asked early that summer when we wondered how often Oxford’s nine municipal councils close their doors to the public and discuss council business in-camera. This project — the print feature with a nod to this online companion — won an Ontario Newspaper Award in the municipal affairs reporting (under 25,000 circulation) on May 1, 2010.

It’s a question that can be easily answered but required enough time, initially, to review 358 council minutes documents and then analyze the results. Each monthly update takes an additional two or three hours to download all the minutes, go through them and update all the data.

Aside these charts, you can also view the raw spreadsheet data as compiled, by visiting this link.

The charts and graphics were last updated July 3, 2011.

Councils are permitted by the Ontario Municipal Act to discuss business in camera, however prior to closing the door a resolution must be read stating the general intent of why council is meeting in private. Those reasons are for matters pertaining to:

  • the security of the property of the municipality or its local boards;
  • personal information about identifiable individuals, including municipal or local board employees;
  • 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 a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another act;
  • consideration of a Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request, if council is the designated the ‘head of the institution’ per that act; and
  • for the purpose of educating or training the members.

We’ll update these charts and the ones on subsequent pages linked below on a monthly basis beginning in October 2009. To read every blog post related to these pages, click here. It’s an effort akin to journalism’s basic function to be the public’s watchdog and a message to Oxford’s councils that we’re watching.

To see the specific data for each municipality, click through with the links below.

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