Qualicum Beach councillor says it is unsafe to hold private council meetings face-to-face

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One Qualicum Beach town councillor said he will not attend in-camera meetings face-to-face. The town currently hosts all public meetings virtually and streams them online, but private meetings continue to be held in person.

“It is patently unwise for council to insist on in-person meetings during these deeply uncertain times and I believe that all business must be conducted remotely to ensure the health and well-being of all stakeholders,” said Coun. Robert Filmer.

Council decided to continue gathering in-person for private meetings to protect sensitive information that could be harmful to the municipality, with full consideration of the pandemic, according to Daniel Sailland, chief administrative officer..

The town adopted a new council procedure bylaw last month, which Sailland said was a result of over a year of review and revision.

“While it’s true that our recently adopted council procedure bylaw had been carefully reviewed and revised, they did not take into account the deeply unpredictable nature of the pandemic,” Filmer said.

New restrictions from the province allow in-person gatherings for formal meetings, such as town council — both Parksville and Nanaimo continue to hold regular meetings face-to-face.

“The Town has taken many steps to maintain high safety standards around the prevention of COVID-19, and will continue to do so under the direction 

of Island Heath and Provincial Health,” Sailland said in a press release.

Mayor Brian Wiese said councillors were at least 10 ft. apart at an in-camera meeting on Wednesday and presenters were further.

“We were all wearing masks for the duration of the meeting. Barring a lockdown, which I sincerely hope we don’t see, we will continue with this format for the foreseeable future,” Wiese said.

A motion passed on Sept. 14 said no member of council would be permitted to attend private meeting electronically — it said if a councillor is unable to attend, any matter requiring all of council should be deferred for a later meeting.

Filmer said he believes meeting in-person puts town officials, employees and the public at risk. He said he does not intend on attending face-to-face.

“If our Parliament can conduct its confidential business virtually, then there is no reason to expect our council to conduct confidential business utilizing any number of the industry standard remote meeting tools available in 2020,” he said.

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