Kamloops council has deferred the issue of evening city council meetings and quashed the potential for councillors to participate in meetings electronically on a limited basis.
During a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday morning, council was presented with a number of updates to its procedural bylaw. Having spent the better half of the morning discussing transit, council voted unanimously — Coun. Bill Sarai was absent — to defer discussion about evening meeting times, given time constraints.
A staff report to council concluded the majority of communities analyzed held regular meetings at night, but noted later meeting times did not result in increased public participation. Participation, instead, was linked to topics.
Additionally, staff research concluded it would cost more to hold meetings at night, due to having to pay CUPE-contracted staff. Council will discuss the matter at a future committee of the whole meeting, likely in the fall.
Meanwhile, council ditched a proposition to dial in digitally to regular meetings.
Staff recommended up to two city councillors per meeting could participate in council meetings remotely, via an iPad — a move supported by Coun. Arjun Singh, who said he has watched city council meetings from hotel rooms while absent under his duties as president for the Union of BC Municipalities. He pushed the idea on a limited basis, not wishing to allow snowbirds the ability to vote from a sunny spot all winter, and noted situations of service or accessibility issues related to an injury or disability.
“I think it will be a rare provision,” Singh said. “But I think it’s important.”
Coun. Mike O’Reilly, disagreed. He said councillors are making multi-million-dollar decisions for which they should be present.
“We owe it to people to be here,” O’Reilly said. “To listen and to look them in the eye.”
Council voted 5-3 to defeat electronic participation, with councillors Singh, Sadie Hunter and Kathy Sinclair voting in favour, but councillors O’Reilly, Dale Bass, Dieter Dudy, Denis Walsh and Mayor Ken Christian opposed.
Additionally, Singh tried to open up the public inquiries portion of council meetings to allow residents a few minutes to speak to council on any matter concerning them, at the chair’s discretion. Four council members — Singh, Bass, Hunter and Walsh — voted in favour. The other four — O’Reilly, Dudy, Sinclair and Christian — were opposed, with the tie defeating the proposal.
Council also wants delegations and proclamations to be held at the beginning of meetings, to avoid people waiting around during the public submissions portion of the meeting, which can take an indeterminate amount of time based on public feedback and council questions. Additionally, council wants those who file notices of motion required to be present to defend their notices of motion. Former city councillor Donovan Cavers filed 11 notices of motion during his final city council meeting last October, none of which have been adopted by the current council.
Council’s feedback from Tuesday will be included in final staff recommendations, which will return to council for approval at a later date.