Maple Ridge is among the few Metro Vancouver municipalities not livestreaming its meetings.
A survey of websites found that cities from West Vancouver to Burnaby to Mission to Pitt Meadows all webcast their council meetings, with the exception of White Rock, and Richmond, although the latter is considering it.
Maple Ridge has no immediate plans to livestream meetings so people can watch online.
“I guess we’re doing it in bites,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin.
“As soon as I hang up from you, I’m going to walk down the hall and ask again.”
He likes the idea and said Maple Ridge isn’t resisting it.
“It was part of the discussion when we did the upgrades of [council] chambers and maybe that’s the next step.”
Maple Ridge posts videos of its council and committee meetings two or three days after they take place, depending on staff workload.
Shaw Cable shows tapes of council meetings on the following Saturday and Monday.
Council workshops, which take place in the smaller Blaney Room on Monday mornings, are usually the centre of more lively debate and during which voting also takes place, but are neither taped nor livestreamed.
“Just to do it for the sake of putting it up there and the quality is grainy … or the sound’s not great, that doesn’t do any good either,” Daykin said.
Council’s regular chambers have a good sound system, but “to get that similar capability in the Blaney Room, I don’t know.”
Staff are looking at equipping the Blaney Room with microphones, although council voted down a motion in November by Coun. Corisa Bell to move workshops to council chambers until sound equipment is installed in the former.
The district’s policy on recording council meetings drew controversy last year when the district edited a June committee meeting video because of what it called privacy issues.
Bell favours livestreaming of meetings.
“We should just be implementing it,” she said.
People might become more engaged in politics if they had the ability to participate, she added.
Bell also wants workshop meetings livestreamed or recorded.
“I don’t understand why would you not want to have the meetings recorded.”
In the meantime, she is recording workshops on her cellphone. Some councillors initially objected to that.
“People say all sorts of stuff at workshop,” said Bell. “By the time you get to council, it’s all filtered. It’s very important the public understands what happens at workshop.”
Politicians should be held accountable for what they say, which is difficult if there is no recording of the meeting and minutes record only the voting decisions, Bell added.
In Pitt Meadows, livestreaming council meetings has occurred since 2009, using the video feed from Shaw Cable.
“We’ve been doing it for a while,” said Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters.
“I think it’s great because then people can watch council whenever they want to.”
Councillors were a bit apprehensive at first, she noted, but then councillors are in front of the Shaw cameras anyways.
“Allowing people access to our meetings I think is a good thing.
“I think it’s the wave of the future and I’m really surprised municipalities are not jumping on board. Allowing people access to our meetings, as long as it’s not in-camera, I think is a good thing.”
The city is also looking at using a webcam to broadcast its meetings, and live stream its committee meetings.
Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Surrey, the city and district of North Vancouver, Langley city and township, Chilliwack, Burnaby and Vancouver all livestream their council meetings.