Qualicum Beach council has voted to continue meeting electronically until further notice.
Unlike its Parksville counterpart, which resumed meeting in person on June 1, Qualicum Beach council has decided to keep it online for the time being. They discussed how to better allow community participation within online meetings and potential barriers for those trying to engage with council.
Heather Svensen, the corporate administrator for the town, said part of the reason is for the town to perfect how they do online meetings, since they can’t be certain if they might need to return to them in the future. In addition, staff pointed to the older population and the health risks associated with gathering in person when the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much active.
“The reason why staff felt strongly to continue with perfecting and enhancing transparency for the public through via Zoom is because we just do not know where this pandemic is going to go,” said Svensen at the June 24 meeting. “Should we recieve a second wave as they’re suspecting, then we’re ready.”
Coun. Robert Filmer said he thought there could be a compromise – council meeting in chambers and having the public join in on Zoom for comment.
“I understand councillor Filmer’s want to go back to chambers and I don’t think it’s going to be that long and I hope it’s not going to be that long, but not today,” said Mayor Brian Wiese.
The motion for council and committee of the whole meetings to continue on Zoom until further notice passed, with Filmer as the sole opposer of the motion.
Svensen told staff that they’re encouraging the public to pre-register for attendance on Zoom meetings, but that it’s not required. The report presented is a living document, meaning staff is still working on ironing out the details.
Luke Sales, director of planning for the town, said they’re going to be changing the document to reflect a more of a “typical public hearing structure.” In addition to the public joining through Zoom, Sales said they want to allow people to call in as well, in cases where people might not have access to the technology needed for a Zoom meeting.
“A final will be issued before public hearing is launched, but then it may continue to evolve over time,” said Sales. “This is something that all municipalities are learning and improving.”
More information about the details of how to participate in council meetings will be released by the town.