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The Weather Network
Sep. 18, 2019 | Wednesday
Local News
Editorial: Public information: Just the facts, please
File photo.

We all make mistakes, keep secrets. Sometimes we overreact, are tentative and cautious, worried about doing the right thing. That can be understandable.

But in this modern era of accountability and transparency, it is essential for our public institutions to embrace openness and accept that information is power. And sometimes information the gatekeepers of those institutions might feel awkward or hesitant about disseminating really needs to be shared with the public.

Especially when it is information that the public will be keenly interested in.

We saw this last month when the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake publicly released a controversial 210-page report on E. coli contaminating Lake Ontario. While we can debate whether information on the progress of that two-year investigation should have been kept under wraps for so long, the fact remains once a plan for fixing it was set, the town released the report. Kudos for that.

Not so much in the Randwood case, the Town of NOTL vs. Solmar et al.

The municipality, a public institution, laid public charges under the Ontario Heritage Act, by filing public documents in a public courthouse in Welland on a matter of huge public interest to people in Niagara-on-the-Lake. In March.

But three months later, the town has yet to officially, or publicly, release that information, even when asked for it.

As The Lake Report noted in a story a week ago, this is somewhat unusual because there is no compelling moral or legal reason for not publicizing the fact charges were laid – or at least releasing factual information (not opinions or evidence, just the facts) related to the case, especially when asked about it. That’s how our public legal system works.

With all due respect, the town’s legal opinion that publicizing the fact charges were laid might be seen as unfair to the accused is simply convenient, obstructionist hogwash. That’s not how our public legal system works.

After hearing that charges might have been laid, we investigated so that we could inform you, the public, our readers about the facts. No one is presupposing guilty, but when your municipality takes a prominent area developer to court, no matter what the eventual outcome is, the public deserves to know about it.

Kudos to SORE, the citizen group that has been deeply involved in the Randwood case and which is pushing for the town to be more open with information about this court case.

Because, frankly, it is not the town’s information that is being kept under wraps. It is YOUR information.

editor@niagaranow.com

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