Coquitlam residents can keep tuning in to see city council meetings and hearings via Zoom until Oct. 4.
Monday, council unanimously extended its resolution to have meetings in-person at city hall — without the public present — and to comply with B.C. ministerial order M192 for how local governments can operate during the pandemic.
The move also allows Coquitlam politicians and civic employees to appear virtually, if they choose.
City clerk Jay Gilbert, director of intergovernmental relations and legislative services, told council the extension follows three previous resolutions set by council last May, September and December — all of which also passed unanimously.
But Coun. Bonita Zarrillo, who has recently voiced concerns about transparency and equal access during online meetings and has criticized the city for holding in-person meetings during a global viral outbreak, urged Gilbert to update the city’s procedural bylaw so that the minutes and votes are clear.
“It would be good to have some language around that, developing some guidelines, because we might be with this electronic meeting model for quite a bit longer,” Zarrillo said, adding, “The reason this is important to me… is we talked a lot about the equability that happens when some are in-person and some are not, in relationship to the public.”
“I think that the greatest path to equity is to have things explicitly written out in the procedure bylaw,” Zarrillo continued. “This is the way we’re going to take the vote, this is the way you’re going to be recognized for the vote…. I just think that’s important information to have laid out.”
Zarrillo also noted council’s discussion was happening on International Women’s Day, March 8, and singled out the three female councillors who were appearing via Zoom — including councillors Teri Towner and Trish Mandewo — “which does put us in a less equitable position. There’s a power gap that does exist from those in chambers versus those who are not,” she said.
(Also Zooming in for Monday’s meeting was Coun. Chris Wilson while Mayor Richard Stewart and councillors Brent Asmundson, Dennis Marsden, Steve Kim and Craig Hodge were at their Plexiglas-flanked desks at city hall — the latter two wearing masks.)
Gilbert said the procedure bylaw is already under review and a report will come before council for input.
In his March 2 report to council, Gilbert said the Oct. 4 date was picked to time with the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out this spring and summer; council may return earlier for in-person meetings and hearings — with public attendance — if approved by the provincial government, he wrote.