With new mayor sworn in, Lake Cowichan meetings go virtual

Tonight, Bob K. Day will preside over his first regular council meeting as mayor. And he will do it from home.

Bob K. Day became the mayor of Lake Cowichan in a ceremony on Nov. 10, after a tight by-election race. Among his first orders of business? Get town meetings online.

The town is the last municipality in the Cowichan Valley Regional District to offer residents the option to tune into meetings virtually. No recordings of past meetings are available.

That changes this evening at 6 p.m., when Day will preside over his first regular council meeting as mayor. The plan is for all council members to participate virtually from their homes. Town staff will run the meeting from council chambers. 

The technical details for the public to listen and participate live are still being worked out, Day told The Discourse by phone. So, for today only, a maximum of 10 members of the public may come to council chambers to hear and participate in the meeting, although they are discouraged to if they can avoid coming. A recording of the meeting will be posted on YouTube and Facebook the following day.

“That’s what we could do for today,” Day said. 

The intention is for all future meetings to take place on Zoom, live-streamed to YouTube. 

Community members’ call for recorded council meetings pre-dates this pandemic. But COVID-19 has brought new urgency to the question.

In the early days of the pandemic, council meetings proceeded with no public access and no official record beyond meeting minutes

In late May, acting mayor Tim McGonigle told The Discourse that council hoped to find a solution by June — either a bigger space to accommodate more observers, or some form of live streaming. 

And by June a small number of members of the public were allowed in, with preference for those presenting to council. But meetings remained in council chambers, with a capacity of 12 including council and staff, to meet COVID-19 guidelines.

Now, with COVID-19 cases spiking on Vancouver Island and all social gatherings cancelled, even those modified meetings have become untenable, if technically allowed. 

At least one council member is now unwilling to attend meetings in person due to the risks of spreading the virus, Day said. 

Day has not been a member of council for the past two years, but was for 10 years prior to that. 

Asked why it’s taken so long to bring meetings online, he said, “Good question. Because maybe somebody said, ‘it’s going to happen now.’” He has one-on-one conversations with all council members and explained that this must happen, and they agreed, Day said. [end]

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