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Saturday, November 19, 2011

A victory for open government!

After Coast vows to "occupy the lunch and learn," closed council meeting is cancelled.

Posted By on Sat, Nov 19, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Readers know that I've long been a crusader for more open government meetings. I've long maintained that Halifax council stretches the legal cover for secret meetings to cover all sorts of topics that should rightly be debated in public session.

A particularly egregious example was slated to happen next week: a "lunch and learn" where the managers of the Business Improvement Districts would make presentations to council, with neither the press nor the public invited. At some future date, council would vote for funding for the various Business Improvement Districts, which clearly made the BID presentations a matter that should be discussed in public.

So in Thursday's paper, I published a short article detailing my case, and announced my intention to attend the lunch and learn in my capacity as a reporter. I was fully prepared to refuse any orders to vacate City Hall, and risk arrest if need be, and made arrangements for the eventuality, just in case.

Friday at 12:01pm, Paul MacKinnon, director of the Downtown Halifax Business improvement District emailed me and asked me for the link to Thursday's article. I emailed it back to him at 12:08pm. At 4:37pm, Cathie Barrington, in the council support office sent a note to councillors saying that the lunch and learn was cancelled, as follows:

just retracted the lunch and learn for Tuesday. Please see below for the reason for the cancellation. thanks and have a good weekend.

Councillor Karsten:

I regret to advise you that the Business Improvement Districts wish to cancel the Lunch and Learn scheduled for November 22, 2011. It has been brought to our collective attention that this time period is also the same time that the Nova Scotia Housing @ Homelessness Network are holding their seminar in Halifax. A number of the BID’s and their membership have a keen interest in this area of our economic development, as do HRM Councillors, and we believe that this Homelessness Event takes priority over our information session. We would like to have the opportunity to re-schedule an event as we value the opportunity to have a general discussion on our relationship with HRM in relation to the growth of our economy in the municipality over the next number of years.

On behalf of the BID’s I wish to thank you and the many Regional Councilors who had committed to attend this Lunch and Learn and apologize for this cancellation at such a late date. Any enquiries you receive regarding this cancellation my be forwarded to me at my office (466-2997 email and I will respond accordingly.

Regards, Tim Olive, Executive Director, Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission

I leave it to readers to assess the likelihood of Olive's explanation for the cancelled meeting, but I will point out the irony of a meeting of the Homelessness Network becoming a drop-everything council priority exactly a week after the overreaching and disproportionate eviction of the Occupy encampment.

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