Elected officials are free to express their views on LNG or any other such issue and it is common practice for them to do so.
The manner of free expression is shaped somewhat by the legal obligations associated with a pending or an actual development application that is to be considered by the elected body. In this case, although an elected official is free to express their view on any given subject, it is considered prudent to ensure any view expressed respects the legal obligation of the elected official to maintain an “open mind” or be amenable to persuasive arguments either in favour or in opposition to a proposed bylaw. This helps ensure an elected official is not perceived to have prejudged the merits of any application, whether or not it happens to be consistent with an official community plan or zoning bylaw or any other consideration. Applications for official community plan and rezoning amendments are common components of local government business.
The requirements of procedural of fairness inherent in the rezoning process, as set out in case law, require elected officials to maintain an open mind. So, although they are entitled to hold and express opinions about issues of concern to the community, they must be prepared to listen to and weigh the arguments made both in favour of and in opposition to an application.
The Courts have stated that elected officials must be prepared to change their views based on the information presented by an applicant, including information presented at a public hearing. It is important to note that a Board or Council functions as a quasi-judicial body, with all associated responsibilities for procedural integrity, in the consideration of development applications. Otherwise, if a court finds an elected official had a closed mind, and was not prepared to change their views, no matter what information was presented, the elected official risks being disqualified from voting on the matter.