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Citizens turn their backs on Fredericton City Council over their secret Energy East letter

The ‘Publicly Take Back The Letter’ campaign is well underway in Fredericton, New Brunswick. 

The Fredericton chapter of the Council of Canadians has made public that Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside and City Council sent a Letter of Support for the proposed TransCanada Energy East Pipeline Project to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and kept it secret from the citizens of Fredericton.  And now the public and reporters have learned that this action was illegal. 

Councillors were contacted and asked to bring this issue up at last night’s City Council meeting.  Posters have been placed throughout downtown Fredericton to “Publicly Take Back The Letter”.  And a Facebook Event Page has been active for 5 days to spread the word on social media.

Citizens sat quietly in the public gallery of the City Council meeting last night to watch their elected representatives correct a wrong.  As CBC Fredericton radio reported this morning, the approval of a Letter of Support on Energy East was a violation of the Municipalities Act [of the Province of New Brunswick]. This decision was made by Fredericton City Council during a closed meeting held on January 25, 2016.  The request for the Letter of Support was received earlier in the day from the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

But at the start of the City Council meeting, not one of the 12 councillors asked to add this issue to the Agenda.  There was also no acknowledgement by the Mayor or Councillors to the citizens above and the reason why they were present.  

The Agenda was approved without any item added to publicly rescind this letter.  At this point, the citizens in the public gallery, including several members of the Fredericton chapter of the Council of Canadians, stood up and turned their backs to the Mayor and City Councillors in the Council chamber below.  These citizens made their silent statement for a couple of minutes and then quickly left the public gallery.

CBC reporter Lauren Bird gave the following account on this morning’s CBC Information Morning Fredericton radio show, “According to the Council of Canadians, the letter supporting the Energy East pipeline was approved in a closed Council-in-Committee meeting in January, around the time that Montreal Mayor Coderre came out against the pipeline.  But approving such an item in a closed session is a violation of the Municipalities Act.  It says closed sessions are only for discussing information that is personal, confidential, or could jeopardize negotiations leading to an agreement or a contract.”

CBC’s Lauren Bird added, “Councillor Randy Dickinson says he voted against it. “It should clearly be the type of topic that belongs in the public domain, not in a closed session.” Reporters asked the Communications Officer at City Hall to have Mayor Brad Woodside comment, but the Mayor left before reporters had a chance to speak with him.”

It is against the Municipalities Act under Section 10.2(4) to conduct this DISCUSSION IN SECRET, and it is against the Municipalities Act under Section 10.2(5) to conduct this VOTE IN SECRET.  Closed meetings by Council are only allowed on issues that are considered a confidential matter (e.g. personnel matters, proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land).  The Municipalities Act makes it clear that Council are not allowed to make such a decision behind closed doors, except for decisions related to “(a) procedural matters, (b) directions to an officer of the municipality, or (c) directions to a solicitor for the municipality.”

Members of the Fredericton chapter of the Council of Canadians are asking their Councillors to resolve this matter.  The Councillors have been asked to contact the City Clerk’s Office to have this violation of the Municipalities Act added to the Agenda for their upcoming May 2nd, Council-in-Committee public meeting.

Stay tuned.  Citizens will attend the next Council meeting on May 2, 2016 and watch quietly to see if Council corrects their violation of the Provincial law.  This Council-in-Committee meeting starts at 7:00 p.m., in the 2nd Floor Committee Room of Fredericton City Hall. 

The municipal election for Fredericton takes place on Monday, May 9, 2016.  #TakeBackTheLetter

Update: WIN! Fredericton city council admits their letter of support for Energy East was inappropriate, April 28, 2016