West Kelowna  

West Kelowna has adopted measures to allow for electronic access to meetings

Council meetings tweaked

West Kelowna city council has approved measures that will allow for remote access to meetings for councillors and the public under certain circumstances.

The changes to the city's procedures bylaw were made necessary after the province removed the order allowing cities to offer electronic participation in meetings late last month.

The changes will allow the city to continue to allow remote access, as it has the past 18 months due to COVID.

The two-part amendment would allow for electronic participation at council meetings upon authorization of the mayor, and also that council members could attend a meeting remotely, again by authorization of the mayor, "under extraordinary circumstances."

City CAO Paul Gipps says extraordinary circumstances was added to the amendment as a way to clarify why a councillor could attend remotely.

Coun. Rick de Jong says it's a logical step to allow both the public and those presenting to council the ability to dial into meetings when necessary.

As for council, he cautions the additional clarification was welcome to prevent abuse by future councillors.

"I think we need to be really clear to us, and future council in setting the intent, that if you are running for council and you get elected, you are expected to be at council, in person, on a regular basis," said de Jong.

"Taking a three month holiday in Mexico and just dialing in, that's not part of this gig."

That point was agreed unanimously by councillors.

However, Coun. Doug Findlater believed leaving the wording at "extraordinary circumstances" didn't go far enough.

He cited an instance a few years ago where a city councillor in a B.C. community moved to Alberta, but continued to attend meetings remotely and draw a salary.

"I don't think this is tight enough to prevent that, I would like to see this a little less discretionary," said Findlater in voting against that particular part of the amendment.

Coun. Stephen Johnston voted against the second part of the amendment, stating he wants people in chambers whenever possible.

"I have a bit of a hesitancy because, if we are hiring a consultant to do work for us, there is much greater value for in-person meetings," said Johnston.

"The way we do public hearing in a post-pandemic world, I think we do need to get to in-person public hearings.

"I think it's important the public comes out. I wouldn't be a proponent of online participation in public hearings."

Council gave first three readings to both amendments.

They will now go to the public for comment before being adopted.

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