Editorial - Budget discussions need not be behind closed doors

At the regular meeting of Yorkton Council if one looked down the agenda one would have seen a budget item for the upcoming City budget.

In December that is hardly surprising. It is the time of year Councils review the budget prepared by City administration based on their provided broad guidelines, hammering out the details of how the City will spend the taxpayers’ dollars in the upcoming year.

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But, in this case what is interesting, or at least it should be seen as interesting by the public is that the item is in-camera.

For those unfamiliar with the workings of municipal government, Councils can choose to discuss items in-camera, which means the gallery in emptied of public onlookers and media, and the camera for online viewing is turned off. As a result, what Councillors say on the issue at-hand is done without public scrutiny.

There are of course very good reasons to turn off the cameras. There are legal matters that need to be discussed without the world knowing the details, at least until a matter perhaps heads to court.

There are discussions about specific personnel that need not be broadcast to the world.

And there are times when property is being sold and some secrecy to prevent land being bought to try for a quick profit on resale is warranted.

But, today Councils have a broader scope of things they can take in-camera, pretty much anything if agreed too.

That includes budget talks, but the question is why?

Should the community not be privy to what may be in a budget?

Or, maybe more importantly what is being trimmed, and why?

With insight into the process the community can have a voice in the process by talking to its councillors as the details are hammered out over a series of Council talks.

Now some may argue that an in-camera session fosters a more open environment for Councillors to speak on the matter on the table.

There may be some truth in that assertion, but one wonders what a Councillor would have to say in a closed door meeting on a budget spending taxpayer dollars that they would not say in front of those same taxpayers?

Over the last two civic elections a reoccurring theme for a number of candidates has been a desire to see increased transparency when it comes to the workings of the municipal government. A key element of transparency is to let the public see what Councillors have to say on as broad a range of issues and decisions as possible. That starts by Council being very sure taking an item in-camera has a good reason to be discussed behind closed doors.

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