Council agrees committee meetings are not private

MINDEMOYA—Central Manitoulin municipal council supports one of its council members’ concerns that the Kagawong Lake Standing Advisory Committee (KLSC) should not declare that its meetings are private and not open to the press.

“Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the Kagawong Lake Standing Advisory Committee (KLSC) which deals with water levels on the lake,” said Derek Stephens, a Central Manitoulin councillor at a council meeting last week. “We formalized the terms of reference, and agreed they will be two representatives of each of the organizations represented on the committee.” This includes Sandpiper Hydro Power Generating Station company), Action Kagawong Watershed Association (AKWA), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Ministry of Environment and Energy (MOEE), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Township of Billings, Township of Central Manitoulin, Township of Gordon and Allan West and the M’Chigeeng First Nation. The committee, which is chaired by the Ontario Ministries of Natural Resources (MNRF) and/or the Environment (MOEE) and an additional public member will represent the interests of the Kagawong River not already represented by a group on the committee. At the recent meeting, the MNRF chaired the meeting.

“One of the problems I had with the meeting is that comments were made about last year’s meeting, and the press being there,” said Councillor Stephens. “In the terms of reference we looked at it was noted that only those people indicated on the list should be there, not members of the press. I questioned this, because I am appointed by council, and publicly elected to council, and I just wonder how anyone could feel this committee could have what I was told was a private meeting.”

“I would like direction from council on whether my concerns are correct that this is not a private committee or meetings,” said Mayor Stephens.

When asked by Councillor Dale Scott if he had filed a concern about this being considered a private meeting, Councillor Stephens said he did.

“It bothers me that anyone would say this is a private meeting when you, as a representative of the municipal council, elected by the public, are on the committee,” said Councillor Pat MacDonald. “I wonder why they would say it was a private meeting and not open to the press or public.”

“Does this committee have authority to spend public funds?” asked Councillor Alex Baran.

“This is an ad hoc committee established by the MOEE, MNRF, AKWA and the municipalities,” said Councillor Stephens.

“I was just a little apprehensive, and I wanted to get council’s thoughts on the issue. Now I have direction for the next meeting, next year,” said Councillor Stephens.

Under the terms of reference it is explained the primary purpose of the committee is to assist in providing information to the appropriate government agencies regarding water resource issues in Kagawong Lake and Kagawong River as that information relates to the approval documents issued to Sandpiper Power Inc. pursuant to the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act.