Last night, a bit of a dust-up at City Hall, as Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) convened the first meeting of the mayor’s new Childcare Development Task Force. City council approved the creation of the task force in February, amidst much eyebrow-raising at the thought that Mammoliti—hardly anyone’s idea of a policy wonk, and with not much by way of a track record in child care issues—would be able to successfully devise a new approach to the delivery of child care services in Toronto. In short, many have been assuming the task force has been constituted to make an argument for privatization.
Two councillors with a strong interest in the task force: Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) and Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York). They both serve on the City’s Community Development and Recreation committee, which oversees the child care file, and which approved the creation of the task force in the first place.
Sadly, when they arrived at last night’s meeting, the mayor’s staff told them they weren’t welcome.
Events as they unfolded, as told by Kristyn Wong-Tam:
As it turns out, Wong-Tam is almost certainly mistaken about the procedural question. The task force isn’t an official committee of council, and as such it isn’t bound by the procedures and rules laid out in the City of Toronto Act [PDF]. It’s basically a group of people who will advise the mayor—they have a fancy name, but little by way of official status. The task force will have formal terms of reference, but those have not yet been issued—Councillor Mammoliti’s assistant told us today that they are expected to be released in the next week or so. Essentially, last night’s meeting was a bunch of people getting together in a room to talk about stuff, not a regulated meeting of any official body; consequently, they weren’t required to invite or let in anyone in particular.
That doesn’t exculpate Mammoliti on the moral question, however. Closed-door meetings may be technically permissible in some cases, but that doesn’t make them desirable. Should the mayor wish to call on an expert or a group of advisors to offer counsel and help shape his thinking on a subject, he is welcome and able to invite them to his office any time he chooses. Should he decide to hold a press conference to trumpet the creation of a task force with an ambitious mandate (“[t]his task force will review our existing services and how we can continue to support child care in our current economic times,” he said when it was announced), and should he claim to make increased transparency a hallmark of his time in office, he should see to it that they are doing their work in the open.