Electronic & In-Person Meetings and Community Involvement & Participation

Electronic and In-Person Meetings and Community Involvement and Participation

The Lasqueti Trust Committee canceled our regular meeting scheduled for December 6 and decided to hold a special meeting instead. Special meetings can be held electronically.

The special meeting has only three agenda items:

  • to consider and discuss motions to amend the proposed Official Community Plan
  • to discuss and decide on our 2022 meeting schedule
  • to discuss and consider amending our Meeting Procedure Bylaw

The primary purpose of the meeting is to discuss proposed changes to our OCP.  If you have changes you’d like to propose, please send them to the LTC or to one of your trustees, or to our planner, Heather Kauer. (Email addresses at the end)

The specific motions to amend the proposed OCP will be included in the agenda package for the meeting, which will be available close to the end of November. It is possible that we will have discussions and not make decisions about them at this meeting

We need to decide on and adopt a meeting schedule for next year. It can be changed, but we have to start with a schedule, because of the large number of meetings that the Trust manages, and that staff and the chairs of each Local Trust Committee attend.

Our Meeting Procedures Bylaw does not prohibit trustees from meeting electronically, even for regular meetings, but it does severely limit them. It says that only one trustee can participate electronically at a regular LTC meeting, and that a trustee cannot participate electronically in two consecutive regular meetings. However, the Meeting Procedures Bylaw says that the LTC can waive either or both of these provisions by unanimous resolution - if all three trustees agree.

I have long advocated for holding meetings electronically. Electronic meetings allow more people to attend meetings, they eliminate or reduce the amount of time, energy and costs (including climate heating effects) that are expended to travel to and attend a meeting in person.

When Covid made attending in-person meetings risky, the province authorized electronic meetings for local government bodies, and the Trust implemented them quickly. Community members were able to watch and listen and participate, over their internet connection or by telephone through Zoom. It also made recording the meeting simple, and the recordings are posted on the web for everyone to access.

The authorization for electronic meetings has expired. The Trust has been working to change its meeting procedures and bylaws so electronic meetings are once again possible. There was a proposal to hire a new staff member to set up and operate the electronic meetings, but Trust Council turned it down. Regular staff had been doing a good job.

I participated in the October 4 Lasqueti Trust Committee meeting via Zoom. A decision had been made to not allow the public to access the meeting by Zoom, but only by Live Streaming over the internet. I don’t know who made this decision; I presume it was the Executive Committee, acting on advice from senior management.

People could not listen by telephone, only by internet, and they had no way to participate, even in the Town Hall session, if they were connected electronically and not at the Health Centre. They could only watch and listen, with no opportunity for input into the meeting, other than writing to or talking with trustees or staff after the meeting.

I have learned that the December 6 electronic special LTC meeting will only be available to the public by Live Streaming, which means that there can be no public participation at all.

I have been concerned about reductions in public involvement in LTC meetings, whether they are held in-person or electronically.

We used to have two Town Hall sessions, one near the beginning and one near the end of each meeting. Now we hold only one session where anyone can say or ask anything related to LTC or Trust business. There seems to be increasing pressure to limit public participation to the Town Hall session.

The Local Trust Committee Meeting Guidelines (Policy 4.1.2) says “Any person attending a meeting may address the LTC on any item of business on the agenda, but only if the LTC resolves to allow that person to address it.”

In the past, members of the public who have indicated that they have something to add to a LTC discussion have been allowed to speak. It is rare that this privilege has been abused. Frequently the person has a piece of information, often historical, that sheds new or useful light on the subject under discussion.

My worry is that when people  begin to feel alienated from or excluded by their local government, they begin to be at least uninvolved,  and then resentful and uncooperative. Local governments, and maybe particularly the Local Trust Committees, have remarkably little power to impose decisions and enforce policies or bylaws. We rely on cooperation and participation of residents and visitors, and the best way to achieve this is to fully involve them in discussions about what is best to do or not do, asking for support and consent rather than expecting it. Community consensus is not easy to achieve, but working toward it is fruitful and effective. The work needs to be led and facilitated, or at least acceded to, by the elected local government officials and the administrative part of the organization.

For now, it has been decided that only Live Streaming of electronic Local Trust Committee meetings will be available. I don’t know if this will also be true for the Trust Council meeting scheduled for Nov 30 – Dec 2. Approximately ten trustees have indicated that they will participate electronically rather than travel to Victoria and sit in the meeting all day wearing masks. I have asked that this be discussed at the meeting, and I hope that participation will be possible for members of the public who are not physically present at the meeting.

It is my intention, when there is an electronic meeting, to see if I can participate from the Health Centre, rather than from home. If I can use the meeting room, people without internet connections can come and watch and hear the meeting, probably on the big screen. There would also be some possibility of being able to participate, at least in the Town Hall sessions, by using my computer camera and microphone setup.  It’s important that people have as much access and input into meetings as possible.

Thanks for reading this.  Please let me know what you think about any or all of it.   Peter

 

Contact information:

All three trustees and our planner LasquetiIslandLocalTrustCommittee [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca

pjohnston [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca

tpeterson [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca

pluckhan [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca

hkauer [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca

NorthernTrust office:   700 North Road, Gabriola Island, BC   V0R 1X3  

telephone 1-250-247-2063    fax 1-250-247-7514     northinfo [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca

 

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