Live, in-the-flesh politicians still beat modern technology

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 19, 2017 - 5:00am Updated: December 19, 2017 - 10:39am

KAMLOOPS — Modern technology is a wonderful thing but I think sometimes we’re anxious to use it just because it’s there.

Coun. Arjun Singh raised the idea this past week of allowing council members to vote via video conferencing when they can’t make it to a meeting.

Singh, who will have to miss a couple of council meetings early next year for Union of B.C. Municipalities business including a trip to Cambodia, wanted to give it a whirl. Under the proposal, up to two people would be allowed to participate in up to two meetings a year via a remote connection with an iPad and Facetime.

This is at least the third time council has discussed the idea. Three years ago, the Kamloops Heritage Commission asked for a change to the procedural bylaw to allow for teleconferencing because it was having trouble getting quorums for its meetings.

So, the following year, council voted to allow video conferencing at committee and commission meetings but drew the line at council meetings.

This past week, the council voted again not to take any action just yet on the latter, and there are good reasons for not rushing in, even though quite a few other cities — including Nanaimo, Chilliwack, Kelowna and others — are doing it.

If a council member — or a committee member — signs into a meeting but loses the connection, he or she would be considered still present. Since anyone who doesn’t raise a hand during a vote is considered to have voted in the affirmative, anyone who loses a connection would be in the same boat for the rest of the meeting.

Mainly, though, it’s a case of, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Council has never had a problem getting quorums. And, as at least one councillor pointed out, the whole thing would be distracting.

In short, while technology is a great thing, it’s never as effective as actually being in the room. Live, honest-to-goodness flesh-and-blood people are still needed for some things.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.