Esquimalt resident demands online council agenda packages

The municipality says it's keeping with Canada's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Every Friday, Muriel Dunn heads over to Esquimalt Municipal Hall to pick up a thick bundle of staff reports and building plans that will be discussed at the following Monday night’s council meeting.

Her attendance is near perfect, but when she recently missed a meeting and went to access the reports online, Dunn told council all she found was frustration.

“I was away and I wanted to get (the information) on the Internet,” said Dunn, who has lived in Esquimalt for more than 50 years. “Of course, what good is our agenda on the Internet (when) we can’t get any reports? I was flabbergasted.”

The issue of posting the entire information package, available to the public in council chambers on meeting nights, was addressed in 2009 when council decided staff should only post the agenda outlines on the township’s website prior to meetings.

That decision doesn’t make sense to Dunn.

“We don’t need to know what is on the agenda if we can’t read and look at the reports,” she said.

The decision was made amid concerns over disclosing residents’ personal information, such as detailed building plans and telephone numbers and email addresses.

That personal data is blacked out in the paper agenda packages.

Council said its decision is in keeping with Canada’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which says personal information in a public body’s custody and control must only be stored and accessed in Canada. If packages were posted online, the information could be accessed from anywhere in the world.

But Dunn said that policy has already been contradicted. An Internet search of her name reveals electronic versions of numerous council minutes featuring her name and address, she said.

“It’s already on the Internet,” she said.

Victoria, Sooke, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Highlands and Saanich post their agenda packages online, whereas Oak Bay and View Royal only post their agenda outlines.