Citizens can now watch Colwood city council meetings online from the comfort of their own home (or office)

Webcasting low priority for most councils

Colwood sees transparency and accountability increased by opening more lines of access for the public

Governments meet in public to discuss and debate policy implementation and the administration of community. It’s one of the hallmarks of democracy.

Public engagement with their own governance encourages transparency in elected offices, holds politicians accountable and has an impact on the way our social systems operate.

Getting the public to come out to civic meetings, however, is becoming increasingly difficult.

It’s hard for many residents to become interested enough in the minutiae of municipal operations to want to attend council and other meetings and engage in the democratic process.

One West Shore community, however, is inviting people into chambers for those discussions from the comfort of their own home – or anywhere else they have a computer – in an attempt to increase transparency and engagement.

The City of Colwood has been webcasting and video archiving council meetings since last June. Since the implementation, Colwood council meetings have been viewed by the public more than 4,000 times.

Improving communication with the public was identified as a key strategic priority by Colwood council in 2012, says city communications manager Sandra Russell.

The city understands residents have busy lives and are often not able to attend civic meetings, Russell adds, so webcasting allows the public to “attend” council meeting at their leisure, stay informed about current issues affecting the city, and learn about upcoming community projects and events.

Don’t expect other districts and townships to follow Colwood’s lead anytime soon, however.

Sarah Jones, director of corporate administration and deputy CAO for the Town of View Royal says because of their community’s size, the mayor and council have an excellent feel for the needs of their community and haven’t heard any outcry for the service.

It’s easy for the public to talk to the mayor and councillors at the grocery store or out in the community, Jones says, and because they do such a good job of engaging them on various other levels – newsletters and ease of personal availability, for example – the public feels connected to what’s going on at council.

“It’s really a matter of doing what we can with the resources available to us,” Jones says. “We’ve been talking about better ways to engage and communicate, and our new Mayor (David Screech) has a big interest in communicating with the public,” she says, but, from what she understands, people are more worried about things like property taxes than being able to access video of council meetings.

Those sentiments are echoed by the District of Metchosin.

“I am unaware of any requests for webcasting our meetings,” says Tammie Van Swieten, the district’s deputy corporate officer. “We do (however) record our meetings on a digital recording system.”

Metchosin also has a free mail-out that goes to all residents quarterly which helps keep their district informed of what’s going on at council, and all minutes and agendas from all meetings are available online, as they are for every other district, township and city on the West Shore.

Highlands Mayor Ken Williams says the topic of webcasting hasn’t come up at their meetings, but assumes it will eventually.

Williams says a new committee structure was approved last year which will see citizen representation as both voting and non-voting members to provide more feedback and increase public participation and engagement on public issues.

Appointments to these new committees are being considered this month.

Just Posted

Neighbour details hearing ‘thuds’ the day girls found dead in Oak Bay

Jury at double-murder trial hears from Andrew Berry’s neighbour

Family cycling affair Tour de Victoria rolls into ninth year

Riders can sign up for the 160 km Factor race, or distances of 140, 100, 60 30 0r 15 kilometers

Repatriation efforts work to heal and connect through history: Royal BC Museum

Victoria museum’s efforts bolstered by B.C. repatriation grant

Big Lonely Doug among largest old-growth trees now on protection list

B.C. to protect 54 old-growth trees, but critics say it’s not enough

Swastikas appear on downtown Victoria bus shelters

VicPD says graffiti has increased significantly in last six months

VIDEO: Sparrows raise their chicks in Cadboro Bay deck planter

Jill Yoneda captured 11 days up close with tiny Junco sparrows

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of July 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

Chinook retention begins on North Island, but amid new size limit

DFO calls measures ‘difficult but necessary’ following rockslide on Fraser River

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

Most Read