Langford Mayor Stew Young has asked city staff to post audio recordings of city council meetings online with a long-term goal to provide livestreaming, after pressure from the public to stream and archive the meetings.
The municipality currently allows residents to participate in council meetings by teleconference, but the audio is not recorded or shared anywhere after the meeting ends, making it difficult for anyone unavailable at the time of the meeting to listen and engage.
Most other municipalities in the region post audio and video of council meetings to their websites within 24 hours, allowing residents to catch up on council discussions.
Young hopes that staff will be able to provide an audio recording of the next council meeting on Jan. 18.
“They are working on that right now,” he said.
In December, council was slammed by residents and municipal watchdog Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria for deciding in private not to livestream their meetings.
Young said livestreaming would be a waste of money right now, because councillors are working from home and council chambers are empty, but he expects the city will start livestreaming by the time it’s safe to resume in-person meetings.
“As soon as COVID kind of gets a bit more under control and it’s safer to meet again and have group meetings, then we’ll do it,” he said.
Young said he has asked the city’s finance committee to include the cost of livestreaming as an ongoing budget item. Council will have to vote to approve it.
Council was split in the December vote, Young said, but he expects a majority of councillors will support livestreaming as part of a new budget.
John Treleaven, chair of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, welcomed the mayor’s commitment to fund livestreaming in the long-term, but said there’s no reason virtual video meetings can’t be recorded and shared online during the pandemic.
“I cannot accept that it cannot be done until COVID is over,” because it’s already being done in Victoria, Saanich, North Saanich, Central Saanich and Sidney, he said. “Get on with it. You have the resources.”
Treleaven said the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to avoid opening up to the public. In fact, the pandemic makes it more important to ensure public participation in local government, because residents can’t understand the tough decisions councils make without watching the discussions they have, he said.
“You can’t do that in Langford,” Treleaven said.
Two neighbourhood groups affected by proposed developments in Langford have criticized the city for its lack of livestreaming, saying they feel shut out of council decisions.
J. Scott of Fairway Neighbours Unite said audio recordings posted online will be an improvement, allowing people who are working or busy during meeting times to follow along afterwards. “That is fantastic. It’s about time,” she said. “It’s not livestreaming, but it’s better than nothing.”