SRD considering electronic participation

The Strathcona Regional District board is looking into the possibility of allowing directors to participate in meetings electronically.

The board, at its April 13 meeting, asked regional district staff to report back on the feasibility of having directors take part in meetings without being physically present at the board table.

Zeballos Director Julie Colborne said it’s something she has long been in favour of because of the difficulties some directors face in having to travel long distances to attend meetings in Campbell River.

Directors come from as far as Gold River, Tahsis, Zeballos, Cortes Island, Sayward, Quadra Island and Oyster River.

“The geography of our regional district is quite unique and I am fully in support of this, maybe with some limitations,” Colborne said.

“Most people have the ability to be on the Internet.”

Cortes Director Noba Anderson said she could see the merits but was concerned too many directors would stop physically attending board meetings.

“I would just hope that we wouldn’t all be able to participate like that, that there’d be at least nine here at all times,” she said.

The Community Charter does allow local governments to use electronic participation under Section 28 of the Charter. It does not stipulate under what conditions.

But at last week’s board meeting, some directors said allowing electronic participation could be a slippery slope.

“I think we need to investigate as to how the public interest is served by having electronic meetings because if you’re just attending through a little box on your laptop how does the gallery, the people, communicate with you,” said Area D Director Brenda Leigh. “We have to be accountable to the public. I feel personally that electronic meetings don’t serve the public well.”