Regional District of Nanaimo directors will vote on whether to proceed with a pilot project that would see meetings streamed over the internet.
The RDN board will consider a motion on May 28 that, if approved, would see committee of the whole and regular board meetings broadcast online. According to a staff report, the price tag to get services up and running is $24,900, with a Sony SNC-VM772R camera and its installation costing $5,000 and streaming and closed caption services totalling $19,900.
The RDN has been providing meeting agendas and minutes via the eSCRIBE service and would webcast its meetings through that medium too, according to the report.
Ian Thorpe, RDN board chairman and Nanaimo director, said it would be basic service.
“My understanding is it will be just a view of the complete board circle, if you want to call it that,” he said. “There won’t be any zooming in or different camera angles, so it’s just a view of the entire board of directors.”
If passed, RDN staff would track viewing numbers and will report back to the board in December on whether to continue streaming.
“There was a part of the recommendation that suggests that we do monitor how well this service is used because it is expensive and we want to get an idea of what the quality is like and how many people use it to see if it’s worthwhile continuing in the years ahead,” said Thorpe.
In an e-mail, Vanessa Craig, Gabriola Island area RDN director, said streamed meetings will be of benefit to her constituents, who have to catch a ferry to attend RDN meetings. Craig said Gabriola residents regularly query her on meeting outcomes.
“The [RDN] covers a large and diverse geographic area,” said Craig. “To attend meetings, island residents would need to take a ferry or private boat and then drive. Others at the borders of the regional district would need to drive for close to an hour. In my opinion, transparency of decision-making by the board will be enhanced by live-streaming meetings.”
Tyler Brown, RDN Nanaimo director, said he is also in favour of the motion.
“To me, it’s really interesting because the RDN is a huge geographical area and to me, streaming those meetings online is really important for the folks that live in Bowser … Gabriola,” said Brown. “It’s really unreasonable to expect them to come to all the meetings, just with travel time, so to me this is a no-brainer. I’m happy the board [could] proceed with this, even if it’s just for a year to evaluate. We can take a look at the numbers, but really it’s about accessibility and being available.”
The idea to stream meetings has been floated by previous boards, but failed. Stuart McLean, RDN director for the Qualicum Bay area, proposed the most recent motion at a meeting in late March.