It was good news for democracy in general and our North Vancouver school board in particular this week to see trustees indicate they will end the long-standing practice of regularly discussing school district business behind closed doors.
Anyone who attends school district meetings – and we can probably count those on one hand – can attest to an occasional lack of substance in debates. Such is the nature of government sometimes.
But after a provincial consultant apparently concluded the closed-door sessions were contributing to a less-than-collegial atmosphere, the board has accepted the suggestion that they close the door on closed-door sessions. That’s a big step in the right direction.
Closed-door sessions are meant to be used sparingly. But the rules are weak and have allowed local governments to liberally interpret what’s permitted.
Yes, it can be cleaner and neater for politicians to have their difficult, and even boring, discussions in private. But it isn’t the right thing to do.
Democracy is a messy, time-consuming process conducted by humans who sometimes make mistakes. The key to any public government is that it’s public.
As everyone from kindergarten on up knows, people behave differently when they know they’re being watched. Usually they’re on better behaviour.
We look forward in the coming months to the board grappling with other important issues like basic standards of what’s expected from trustees and what the consequences are for those who fail to meet them.
Politics – even at the local level – isn’t a private club. The public has every right to standards of accountability and transparency. We look forward to the next chapter.
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