Little-known bylaw keeps cameras out of open Port Coquitlam council meeting
Days after the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board gave themselves a golden handshake in the form of a one-time retirement allowance for departing members, Port Coquitlam’s acting mayor and council voted the next council a pay raise, so the loss of a tax break won’t reduce their income.
“I think it should be maintained and not eroded as a result of the federal government coming down with a directive,” Coun. Mike Forrest said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The 2017 federal budget will eliminate the Municipal Officers’ Allowance in 2019, a tax exemption that allows certain provincial and municipal officeholders to receive one-third of their salaries tax-free.
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“I understand the community’s frustration as to how this looks but I feel it is a fair and reasonable decision and I will be supporting it,” Coun. Laura Dupont said.
Coun. Dean Washington voted against the remuneration adjustment.
“I want to hear what people feel about our community and not about how you gave yourself a raise,” he said.
Port Coquitlam councillor and acting mayor Glenn Pollock also voted no to the pay raise, which will see the next mayor’s salary rise by $25,050 annually and councillors by $5,115 each.
The vote was livestreamed on the City of Port Coquitlam’s website, where a video record exists.
It turns out Port Coquitlam has a little known bylaw that bans filming at open council meetings without “prior notice.”
“A person may use or operate audio and or video recording devices at an open Council or committee meeting only if they have informed the Presiding Member and others in the room that they will be doing so. If necessary, the Presiding Member may authorize the locations where audio and or video recording devices may be placed.”
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Civic affairs columnist Mike Klassen told Global News he’s never heard of any precedent for this in Canada.
“Our open and transparent government is really one of the fundamental principles of our government here in Canada and of our democracy and so it seems very odd that they would have created this bylaw to begin with.”
Speaking on his way out of the open council meeting that Global News was not allowed to film as advance notice was not given, Forrest said he was unable to explain the bylaw.
“I’m not sure of the details or arrangements as to why,” he said. “There have been problems within the past.”
Global News asked the City of Port Coquitlam why the bylaw was enacted in 2015 and if filming a public meeting had ever put any members of council or the public in danger and did not receive an answer by deadline.
“There’s some serious questions that need to be asked of the Port Coquitlam council as to why they don’t want to have media cameras coming in during open public meetings in city hall,” Klassen said.
City of Port Coquitlam Corporate Support Director Robin Wishart told Global News that “this is an area which we are going to clarify in our bylaw and make http://and%20video%20recording allowed subject to not blocking the view of others.
“It is a bit of a housekeeping item which we will clarify in this bylaw in a subsequent meeting.”
Global News will make sure to follow the rules and give the City of Port Coquitlam advance notice so crews can attend that “subsequent meeting” and film the proceedings.
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