Document 2





To Council of the City of Ottawa












Douglas R. Wallace

Closed Meeting Investigator






















October 31, 2010





The Municipal Act 2001 requires that municipal councils and most local boards and their committees hold meetings that are open to the public, subject to certain limited exceptions.  The general rule and the exceptions are set out in section 239 as follows:


Meetings open to public

239.  (1)  Except as provided in this section, all meetings shall be open to the public. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (1).


(2)  A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is,

(a) the security of the property of the municipality or local board;

(b) personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;

(c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;

(d) labour relations or employee negotiations;

(e) litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;

(f) advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;

(g) a matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (2).


The legislation also sets out a number of statutory requirements that must be complied with in holding any meeting that is closed to the public. 



(4)  Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a municipality or local board or committee of either of them shall state by resolution,

(a) the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting; or

(b) in the case of a meeting under subsection (3.1), the fact of the holding of the closed meeting, the general nature of its subject-matter and that it is to be closed under that subsection. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (4); 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 103 (2).

Open meeting

(5)  Subject to subsection (6), a meeting shall not be closed to the public during the taking of a vote. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (5).


(6)  Despite section 244, a meeting may be closed to the public during a vote if,

(a) subsection (2) or (3) permits or requires the meeting to be closed to the public; and

(b) the vote is for a procedural matter or for giving directions or instructions to officers, employees or agents of the municipality, local board or committee of either of them or persons retained by or under a contract with the municipality or local board. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (6).

Record of meeting

(7)  A municipality or local board or a committee of either of them shall record without note or comment all resolutions, decisions and other proceedings at a meeting of the body, whether it is closed to the public or not. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 103 (3).


Finally, the legislation also provides for the appointment of an independent investigator to investigate any complaint that a municipality has not complied with the legislated requirements. 



239.1  A person may request that an investigation of whether a municipality or local board has complied with section 239 or a procedure by-law under subsection 238 (2) in respect of a meeting or part of a meeting that was closed to the public be undertaken,

(a) by an investigator referred to in subsection 239.2 (1); or

(b) by the Ombudsman appointed under the Ombudsman Act, if the municipality has not appointed an investigator referred to in subsection 239.2 (1). 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.


The legislation was, in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada in the recent case of London (City) v. RSJ Holdings Inc. “intended to increase public confidence in the integrity of local government by ensuring the open and transparent exercise of municipal power.”  It is no exaggeration to say that without “the open and transparent exercise of municipal power” accountability and democracy cannot flourish at the local level. 

Council authorized my appointment in November 2007 which became effective in January 2008. 

As your Meetings Investigator, I investigated 14 requests from nine different members of the public.[1] The requests raised serious concerns that members of Council were dealing with subjects behind closed doors that did not fall within the permitted exceptions to the open government rule.   The requests also showed that it was not clear to many people from what was said before Council went into a closed session, what matters were to be discussed in that closed session or why that matter should be discussed in private.


My investigation consisted of a review of all relevant documentation concerning each meeting that was the subject of a request, and interviews with the requestors, staff and elected officials to gain a clear understanding of just what had happened to give rise to the complaint, and what could be done to avoid future complaints.   Upon completion of each investigation a report was forwarded to Council setting out the nature of the complaint, my findings and in most cases, my recommendations as to how the City’s processes and procedures could be improved to increase transparency and accountability. 


The six reports presented to Council contained 13 recommendations. Most of the recommendations were supported by the City Clerk and Solicitor. Together they led to many changes in the procedure for dealing with matters in camera.  These changes include the following:


  • the recording of start and end times of closed sessions in the minutes of both the open and closed meetings
  • the inclusion of a more descriptive summary of what took place during the closed meeting on the resumption of the open session
  • the development of a clearer wording to be used in describing what transpired in a closed meeting.
  • an amendment to the Procedure By-law to reflect an enhanced process of rising and reporting progress following a closed session of Council or a Committee of Council.  


Additional changes, including a procedure for reducing the number of matters dealt with in closed session, will be included in the 2010-2014 Governance Review.  


A review of the procedure followed in other municipalities, satisfies me that the City of Ottawa is now in the forefront of the march towards increased accountability and transparency.  Although the necessary processes and procedures are now in place to ensure that Ottawa continues in this direction, only continued vigilance will ensure that this is the case.












Douglas R. Wallace

Meetings Investigator

October 31, 2010






































Report  to open session failed to describe action taken in camera

Person 1

Dec. 19, 2008

Feb.25, 2009

Propriety of considering a public opinion survey in camera

Person 1

Jan. 6, 2009

Feb.25, 2009

Failure of motion to state the specific issue to be considered at the closed meeting

Person 2

Jan. 6, 2009

Feb.25, 2009

Subject matter considered in camera (transit strike)

Person 3

Jan. 14, 2009

Feb.25, 2009

Propriety of Council going in camera to consider a motion to censure a councillor

Person 4

Jan. 14, 2009

Feb.25, 2009

Lengthy wait while Council considered a matter affecting all members of the public in camera

Person 5

Jan. 14, 2009

Feb.25, 2009

Propriety of in camera meeting to discuss measures to mitigate effect of a transit strike

Person 6

Jan. 14, 2009

Feb.25, 2009

Subject matter considered (exercise of City Manager`s judgment in hiring consultant)

Person 4

Jan. 28, 2009

April 22, 2009

Consideration of work-rest rules

Person 1

Mar. 11, 2009

May 27, 2009

Consideration of a report on Corporate Realignment

Person 1

Mar. 25, 2009

May 27, 2009

Propriety of Council considering a report regarding the acquisition of land in camera when details in the report had been made known publically

Person 7

June 24, 2009

Nov.13, 2009




Propriety of the Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee approving a gratuitous payment to a senior municipal employee in camera

Person 8

Person 9

August 31, 2009

April 30, 2010

Vagueness of reasons given for going in camera to consider financial write-offs by Transit Committee

Person 1

April 21, 2010

July 2, 2010








The following requests were dismissed after a preliminary review revealed that they fell outside the Meetings Investigator’s jurisdiction:


  • Open letter to the Ombudsman and Closed Meeting Investigator regarding the lack of a public meeting to deal with the Transit Strike
  • Written complaint concerning a proposed meeting of Council on the subject of the Manotick Secondary Plan
  • Complaint concerning a closed meeting of the Ottawa Public Library Board
  • Approval of rezoning application in open meeting of ARAC May 27, 2010
  • Refusal of liquor licence application in open meeting of Council on August 25, 2010


[1] See Appendix A