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Strathcona Regional District directors reject being filmed

Strathcona Regional District directors shot down a proposal to webcast its public meetings, with some directors saying they would be uncomfortable being on film.

At the regional district’s Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday afternoon directors toyed with streaming board and committee meetings on its website to encourage more electoral participation.

But directors were turned off by the price and the thought of having the public’s eyes on them.

“I would rather have the freedom to speak,” said Director Gerald Whalley, who represents the Kyuquot and Nootka area (west of Campbell River).

“I know who’s sitting in the gallery beside me because I check and it does temper what I say.”

Director Ted Lewis, who represents Zeballos, had similar reservations.

“I’m not an advocate of webcasting to begin with,” he said.

“I’m not comfortable being filmed during the meeting.”

But not everyone thought cameras would be a bad thing.

Coun. Andy Adams said having everything on film would hold directors to account.

“I would certainly hope this does change some of the behaviours that’s displayed on occasion at this meeting,” Adams said.

“It would be nice for transparency and to open up communication with constituents. I’m certainly in favour of pursuing webcasting.”

But directors had a hard time trying to swallow the huge cost estimates regional district staff were reporting.

According to a staff report, the regional district would incur a one-time cost of $27,000 which includes $2,000 for four cameras that pan, tilt and zoom, $20,000 for one camera controller, as well as $3,500 for eight microphones and a mixer board, and $1,500 for equipment installation.

Annual operating costs are estimated at between $15,500 and $20,500.

“I must admit I was surprised at the price tag,” said Cortes Island Director Noba Anderson.

“I would love to pursue this but I don’t think the directors will want to at this price.”

Director Jude Schooner, representing Tahsis, agreed.

“I believe it’s a good thing because it does speak to transparency but the price tag of $20,500 a year to maintain this is astronomical,” Schooner said.

“I’m certainly not comfortable with that price tag.”

Director and city Coun. Mary Storry suggested the regional district adopt a cheaper model, with less cameras and without the zoom features.

“It would be nice to focus on the individual directors but at this point I don’t think we need that,” Storry said. “If there was some middle road or first step, perhaps we could look into that.”

Director Jim Abram, who represents Quadra Island, said there would be no point in compromising.

“If you don’t have a camera that can hone in, people won’t have a clue who’s saying what,” Abram said.

“I think you have to do it right or not do it and at this price tag I would say ‘not do it.’”

But Storry said giving up on webcasting was sending the wrong message.

“We have to grow with the new technology and to not have it on our website is a really old-fashioned way to go,” Storry said.

“I think we need to go back and see if there’s a less expensive way to do it.”

Storry made a motion to direct regional district staff to look into alternate, less expensive options but the motion was defeated with the majority of directors voting in opposition.

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