By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD
A very unusual meeting of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board of directors was held Thursday (March 26, 2020).
Chair Ken Gillis sat in the board room all by himself except for a handful of staff members. The rest of the board was present only by telephone. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic was the cause.
Unfortunately, it didn’t allow for the public or media to attend or to even listen in by phone because of the limited number of lines. A plan to livestream the meeting on Facebook didn’t work out, either.
The explanation was that there simply wasn’t time to install up-to-date technology due in part to the fact that pretty much all TNRD staff are now working from home.
Frankly, I wondered if the day’s meetings (a morning meeting of the Thompson Regional Hospital District was conducted the same way) would even be legal. Local governments are strictly regulated on what they can talk about in camera versus in public, and yesterday’s meetings were, in effect, in camera.
However, word came from Victoria that a ministerial order had set aside the usual rules about open meetings in view of the current crisis.
All things considered, the meeting went quite well, procedurally speaking. Chair Gillis was able to keep tabs on the various voices wanting to chime in on issues, and it really wasn’t much different than regular meetings except that almost nobody was in the board room.
It even had its comical moments as one anxious director had to go check on his greenhouse tomatoes, taking his phone with him to keep up with the meeting. Others, no doubt, did some necessary multi-tasking of their own but everyone was able to stay focused on the agenda.
The meeting lasted almost three hours, about average. I asked that the “Highlights” that are published after each meeting be expanded, and that publication of the minutes — which can often take quite awhile — be expedited.
This was the first time for such a meeting, and hopefully the last. There’s plenty of technology out there that can allow for virtual meetings with public and media having convenient access, and I’m assured the next meeting will be much different.
Director Mel Rothenburger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.