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Athabasca County council discusses best ways to report on committee meetings

May 9 debate centred around the size of the recent agenda package
Athabasca County councillors motioned to request town councillors to “review” their TED committee appointment.

ATHABASCA – Agenda packages for municipal councils can be intimidating, sometimes growing over 100 pages in length depending on what’s on the docket for that session. 

However, the massive size of recent agenda packages prompted a discussion at the Athabascsa County council meeting on May 9 about whether they need to cut them down a bit. 

“There’s some items that, when I look at them, my first thought is why is this in our package?” said reeve Brian Hall. “The section is called ‘reports’, and not ‘minutes and agendas from other organizations.’ My assumption is that there would be reports for agendas that are in there, if they’re going to be in there at all.” 

The discussion ultimately ended with councillors voting 8-1 in favour of reviewing expectations around reporting on committees at their upcoming organizational meeting in October. 

Coun. Tracy Holland was the most vocally opposed to the idea, and also the only vote against the motion, saying that putting other agendas in made it easier for the public to locate information if they needed it years down the road.  

“The agenda is not just for council, it’s also for the public,” said Holland. “If people want to, they’re able to go back to an agenda that is stored online and find the minutes, and then if they have further questions, they know where to reach out. I know they’re helpful. I for one have gone back to 1985 and gotten information that was very helpful. For me, on the public side of the fence, these are extremely important to maintain. 

“We need to be as transparent as possible, and we need to be as available in serving the public as easily and as accessibly as possible. If that means we add a few minutes in from the meetings that the public has trusted us to be at, I think it’s extremely important that we provide that service, and we provide that transparency to them,” concluded Holland. 

One issue with the practice was highlighted by Coun. Ashtin Anderson, who pointed out that minutes sometimes wound up in a package when they weren’t supposed to, like the Pembina River District No. 3 meetings. 

“It is inappropriate to have these minutes included in this agenda package, as these meetings are members-only. Some of the presentations and delegations that are shared there are not for public and are sometimes covered under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP), if they’re to be shared further at all,” said Anderson. 

Instead, Anderson said that she tries her best to highlight the important parts through her reporting, in order to keep council informed while still respecting the integrity of the meetings. 

Coun. Natasha Kapitaniuk chimed in, saying that, while she had no issue with the agendas being included for digital documents, when it came to the printed off versions, it felt like “an extreme abuse of paper.” 

“Having minutes for other committees available is a good thing, as long as they’re open meetings that are committees of this county. I would suggest that they don’t need to be printed on the agenda, if that is easier for admin,” said Kapitaniuk. 

Hall added: “I appreciate that we can take a minute and discuss what standard we can achieve as a group, and I agree with the comments made that being transparent is critical. I don’t necessarily agree that throwing a copy of minutes in the agenda is transparency. Transparency to me is about conveying useful information. 

Hall said that councillors should instead think about making comments on the minutes of other meetings if they’re included in council agendas.

Cole Brennan,

Cole Brennan

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