Halifax council supposedly uses its secret “in camera” meetings only for discussion of land sales, legal matters and personnel issues, but last Tuesday it met all day behind closed doors to discuss $13 million in federal funding for mass transit and voted to use the money on the Bedford fast ferry. 

Several councillors cried foul, correctly pointing out the secret meeting violated council’s own rules.

After the fact, HRM solicitor Mary Ellen Donovan wrote a mumbo jumbo opinion retroactively giving legal sanction for the secrecy, saying “I had forgotten that part of the presentation referenced potential provincial funding scenarios which then brings the matter within the topic of ‘contract negotiations.’” Any thinking person will see that logic for what it is: utter bullshit.

Mayor Peter Kelly says the secrecy was necessary so as to not “pre-empt” the federal announcement, but Transport Canada tells me that the transit money was in no way conditioned on it being spent on the ferry. Council could have accepted the money and then debated how best to use it in public in its upcoming budget meetings.

Kelly says HRM’s “intergovernmental people” told him the feds wanted to include the ferry announcement, but he won’t say who those intergovernmental people are or why it was so important to get the ferry included in the feds’ announcement.

City staff assure me that the $13 million is best spent on the ferry, over and above any other
transit options. Be that as it may, the process underlines the contempt Kelly holds for public participation and debate on matters that involve
the public purse. 

There was no good reason whatsoever this couldn’t have been discussed in public.

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