Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako makes changes to bylaw about meetings

New rules for electronic meetings; RDBN wants to get public more involved

RDBN board members will post electronic recordings of meetings on their website for public access. (File photo/Lakes District News)

RDBN board members will post electronic recordings of meetings on their website for public access. (File photo/Lakes District News)

On June 1, 2021, the Municipal Affairs Statues Amendment Act was passed to provide permanent authority for local governments to choose, by bylaw, whether to conduct regular and committee meetings electronically. These new rules came into effect on Sept. 29.

As a result, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) staff drafted some revisions to Bylaw No. 1964 about regulating meetings and conduct of the RDBN, which were given first, second and third readings during an Oct. 21 board meeting. In the new draft, the main change being made is the amount of members allowed to attend meetings electronically. In the current bylaw it allows for two, and in the new draft it is proposed that a change be made to allow up to four.

According to RDBN staff, this will allow for more flexibility for board members to attend meetings online should they have too, while still insuring that a quorum remains present if communication with the electronic members is somehow lost.

There is also a section in the new bylaw draft that allows for unlimited electronic participation from board members in an emergency or special circumstance. This would mean a public health event or new public health orders from the Provincial government pertaining to COVID-19.

During the discussion, the issue was brought up of public participation in the meetings, or lack there of. It was noted by many board members that the electronic meeting format makes it more difficult for the public to access, and efforts should be made to make the zoom link more accessible for the public to be able to contribute ti the meetings.

When the meetings are in person, the board also made the point that similar efforts should be made so more people are aware when they are going on and how they can participate. However, is was also discussed that giving public unlimited access to meetings will cause the meetings to be inefficient and too long, if citizens are allowed to chime in whenever they want.

There were ideas discussed about a potential system where public questions would be sent in prior to the meeting, and pre-approved. This way, if a certain issue that a citizen wanted to be inquire about, then they had a right to do so, but they wouldn’t be able to constantly raise their hand and interrupt the meeting.

Another way the RDBN intends to generate more public participation is recording all the meetings, and posting them online. The RDBN recently got technological upgrades to the equipment available in the boardroom, and as a result, they’re now able to record or live-stream board meetings with very good sound and visual quality.

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Discussions were had by board members on which platforms the recorded meetings should be posted, and for what length. It was decided that the meetings would be posted on the RDBN website, but not Facebook or YouTube. The reason is so that the RDBN has more control over their content, though it was pointed out by one board member that videos posted on a company website can easily be copied and re-distributed on other platforms.

In terms of length, each meeting will be online for two weeks, until the next meeting occurs. At that point, it will be taken down and the new meeting will be posted. The board decided that it wouldn’t be beneficial to have an entire catalogue of meetings available online because it would open the risk of an individual going through the archives and taking things that had been said out of context, which could cause problems.

“That’s what the minutes are for, we have an accurate record of the details for each meeting, so I don’t see a need to have ever meeting in video form as well,” said Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk.

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
eddie.huband@ldnews.net
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