Letter: Council transparency removed

Change of how council meetings are recorded doesn't make sense

I have not been able to understand why it is that our council has been dragging their feet for so long on their commitment to webcast council meetings.

They have been elected now for more than a year, so could it be that they are not really committed to transparency? Why do I say this? Well consider the latest change that may have already been pushed through.

Oak Bay council was recently informed by staff that they were bringing to council’s attention, a procedural change in the standard for council and committee minutes. Council minutes will no longer list the name of councillors that move or second a motion.

Staff indicated the reasoning for the change was, “in keeping with industry standard” and, “This change in practice is meant to more accurately reflect parliamentary principle.”

This information and research is incorrect. This is not the industry standard and it is not a parliamentary principle and even if it were, our government is not an industry.

Our parliament not only transcribes every resolution or private bill presented, it broadcasts and webcasts them.

The provincial legislature does the same with the (Hansard) transcript and also broadcasts and webcasts every house session.

Almost every one of the 13 Capital Regional District municipalities record the council motion maker and seconder, and the two exceptions that don’t, webcast their council meetings.

Oak Bay, on the other hand, does not. Also, many Lower Mainland municipal councils record who makes a motion and, interestingly enough, so does the CRD board.

Universities across Canada and the United States indicate government minutes are important public and historical records and state identifying “motion makers” as necessary for conflict of interest proceedings and public transparency information.

It’s one of the few ways residents can see what their elected representatives are proposing. It gives them some idea if their interests are being represented and who to vote for.

The argument that a council member must make a motion in order to discuss an issue is not valid – councils are not restricted to motions to introduce community issues. Council meetings are mandated by provincial legislation to be open to the public for a reason. This is a fundamental parliamentary principle.

This information should have been provided to council and I hope now council is aware of it they reject or overturn this decision and, return a policy that has served Oak Bay for many, many years.

Clearly providing real transparency is not a priority for this council. Now removing their names even suggests that the opposite is true.

Thank goodness that, in the interim, we have a strong, community focused group who is voluntarily webcasting council meetings – to let everyone know what’s going on.

Mary Douglas

Oak Bay