Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt was at the centre of a council discussion Feb. 4 around requiring city councillors attending meetings electronically to have their cameras turned on at all times. (Screenshot/victoria.ca)

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt was at the centre of a council discussion Feb. 4 around requiring city councillors attending meetings electronically to have their cameras turned on at all times. (Screenshot/victoria.ca)

Victoria looks to tighten up rules for electronic council meeting attendees

Disruptions during phone-in session leads Coun. Ben Isitt to apologize to council, public

Called on the carpet last week for engaging in what some felt were disruptive activities while on the phone during a committee meeting, Coun. Ben Isitt explained himself on Thursday.

He gave a several-minute speech at the start of the Feb. 4 committee of the whole meeting outlining how founding and overseeing a meals program for seniors and others hard hit by the pandemic had kept him busy since the lockdown began in late March – longer than expected – and distracted him from municipal business.

Isitt defended himself, saying, “members of the public and colleagues on council can judge my actions. I have a clear conscience.”

ALSO READ: Victoria council’s catered lunches back on the chopping block

Then came an apology.

“I would like to apologize to colleagues on council staff and members of the public for not providing my undivided attention to municipal matters over the past 10 months. I realize this has resulted in some inefficiencies and distractions during some committee meetings.”

With funding secured and employees and management in place for the meals program, Isitt said he expected to have more time to devote to council business.

Isitt’s multi-tasking during meetings came to a head at the end of the Jan. 28 committee meeting. Angered by Isitt participating by phone while overseeing installation of a community warming tent on Cook Street, Coun. Stephen Andrew curtly called the behaviour “offensive” to residents.

Andrew, supported by councillors Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Marianne Alto, crafted a motion asking staff to look into requiring councillors participating electronically in meetings to always be able to be seen and heard by their colleagues.

The resulting discussion was lengthy, but ultimately saw direction to staff to come up with a policy recommendation that would allow the meeting chair and city clerk to monitor meeting attendees on screen at all times, with the public and other councillors able to see the person when they are speaking or voting.

Stepping away from the camera, like stepping away from the council chambers, would see councillors shown as absent from the meeting until their return.

“This will make our meetings more efficient, more transparent and create a better respect and trust with all colleagues at the table,” Thornton-Joe said.

ALSO READ: ‘Gentle densification’ of large city lot convinces Victoria council to approve development

The discussion touched on needs for some level of privacy for online councillors who aren’t speaking or voting, and at one point Isitt said a requirement for cameras to be on at all times was like instituting a “surveillance culture.”

Alto disagreed with Isitt’s notion, reminding council that they are public figures who are often approached by people during their private time.

Staff will report back on the matter at a later date.


 

Do you have a story tip? Email:don.descoteau@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

City of Victoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

This photo of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin and her daughter, Lexi, is part of Townsin’s documentary, RARE HUMANS - Turning Hope into Action, her capstone project for her graduate degree from Royal Roads University. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin)
Greater Victoria mother’s grief fuels documentary of ‘Turning Hope into Action’

Lexi, 6, died in 2019 from Blau Syndrome and is among the children documented

This dead fir tree is one of many in Mount Douglas Park. Nine dead trees will be removed from the Douglas Creek site starting March 8 to make way for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge. (Photo courtesy Jason Clarke)
Nine dead, hazardous trees to be removed from Saanich park ahead of bridge construction

Felling begins March 8, minor trail interruptions expected in Mount Douglas Park

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read