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City weighing options on web streaming

Resident calls for special meetings to also be broadcast online

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

In an effort to further transparency at city hall, one Oshawa resident is asking council to consider web streaming all of its special meetings of committee and council.

Resident Rosemary McConkey brought the issue before the corporate services committee, saying that by not web streaming all meetings, councillors can “cherry pick” certain items to be included on the agenda of a special meeting.

“It allows you to do certain things off the radar,” she says. “What are you afraid of? Why are you not allowing these meetings to be web streamed?”

In the last term of council, 20 of the 31 meetings of council were labeled as “special meetings of council.” So far this term, there have been 11, four of which were called for the budget. Some of these meetings were web-streamed at McConkey’s request.

City clerk Sandra Krantz explained that when the initial protocol was set up to web stream council meetings, and committee meetings later, it was only agreed to web stream regular meetings.

Jacqueline Long, interim commissioner of corporate services and executive director of human resources, explained that for the city’s web streaming, a designated block of time and electronic space is purchased by the city to host their web streaming of meetings.

She said to web stream special meetings may require the city to purchase more space, the cost for which was not available at the meeting, but was mentioned to be in the $2,000 range.

Councillor Nancy Diamond said she wasn’t sure the extra dollars would be worth it, judging by the relatively small audiences that watch meetings online, totaling approximately three or four viewers per meeting.

“While trying to be open and transparent…when we’re talking about three or four people who might watch a short meeting, and it’s an additional cost on top of a contract, I think we’re pretty well served now,” she said.

However, Councillor Rick Kerr disagreed, saying it shouldn’t matter if it is three or 300 people, all the meetings should be available for anyone who wants to watch.

“If you want to be transparent and accountable, it seems to me that every meeting that’s a public meeting, the public should have access to,” he says, adding that the extra cost is just the “cost of doing business.”

No decision was made at the meeting as the matter was referred back to staff to gain more details on the additional costs and gather statistics on viewership.