Residents groups want City of Langford to livestream council meetings

The Grumpy Tax Payer$ of Greater Victoria is calling out Langford City Council, saying it’s not being transparent and should live stream council meetings for all to see.

The mayor of the municipality says now is not the time to begin that type of service, with the city council meeting remotely, by phone, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re not happy about it,” said Stan Bartlett, past chair of the Grumpy Tax Payer$ of Greater Victoria.

On Monday, Langford City Council voting against livestreaming council meetings and uploading them to the city’s website.

“I think the issue is all about secrecy and lack of transparency,” said Bartlett, adding that the municipality needs to modernize its practices.

“Langford does a lot of things right, they are a very progressive community,” said Bartlett. “Quite frankly, I think they fall on their face on this issue … It’s unacceptable in the year 2020.”

Langford Mayor Stew Young says there are reasons why the vote didn’t pass.

“If we had put the livestreaming in, there’s nobody there,” said Young. “Everybody is doing remote by phone, even the members of the public.”

The mayor went on to say now is not the time to spend nearly $50,000 dollars to establish the streaming service.

“It’s not in our budget right now and the new budget is coming for next year, starting in the new year,” said Young. “We can look at doing it then and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”

The city council has been meeting by phone ever since provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recommended it at the start of the pandemic.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be back in the council chambers by March, which will be our budget time anyway,” said the mayor.

Langford City Councillor Lillian Szpak has been pushing for the service for a number of years and was disappointed with the result of the vote.

“I think it would be good to have it ready to go for when the time comes,” said Szpak. “It’s what’s happening across canada in many municipalities and I think it’s long overdue here in Langford.”

“We’ve been asking for livestreaming from the start because it’s a pandemic and we’re all locked out of city hall,” said J. Scott from Fairway Neighbours Unite.

Scott has been attending those council meetings over the phone. Her group has been fighting the proposed construction of two, 12-story buildings in her neighbourhood.

“With the phone in system, the quality of sound is bad, it’s hard to understand what people are saying, it’s not recorded, you can’t go back to hear it,” said Scott. “It’s an awkward time and I think livestreaming is so simple.”

“It’s a lack of transparency and it makes people think that there’s secrets,” said Bartlett. “Maybe there aren’t … It’s unacceptable.”

Langford will revisit livestreaming council meetings in the spring.  

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