From Wendy Bales. Did You notice?  The FVRD Board Meetings Are Now Webcast.

What a change in direction, given that most of the FVRD directors wanted to revert to destroying the audio recordings of meetings just last spring! It was a decision that was reconsidered not long after writing the below letter to the editor:

With the recent elections and holidays I don’t imagine that many residents in the regional district had time to notice that the FVRD (Fraser Valley Regional District) now has their Board meetings webcast on line.


You need to select “FVRD Board” in order to see past recordings.

A question still remains: why do they keep delaying the simple decision of whether or not to webcast committee meetings? Several problems come to mind for me.

OK, so the reality is that statistically it is likely that most people won’t care enough to watch what their local government is doing. For others though it could make a big difference, allowing them to keep informed about timely regional issues and get the word out to their neighbors if there is an issue that they feel that more people in the community need to become involved in.

While there is often a good turn-out for city council meetings, the longer trek to attend a regional meeting and especially a committee meeting during the day is often unrealistic as many people are unable to take the day off work. It’s also a difficult obstacle for many to make it to the board meeting at night, after a day of work & providing for having time for dinner and the drive.

Will having the Fraser Valley Regional Board meetings webcast facilitate more convenience and transparency? Having had the advantage of being able to compare the differences in behavior of past colleagues while they were being filmed as opposed to not being filmed as well as the differences in their behavior between open and closed door meetings, I do still have a concern that for some politicians being on camera could produce good bad actors, bad good actors or possibly good, good actors, or bad, bad actors. Not to exclude that there may be some real what you see is what you get politicians.

With my experience I know many of the policies on issues that are up for debate, but policies and bylaws can be changed and are often different for other local governments.  The general public may not know what applies without research, especially since some details are often discussed in committees or in closed door meetings. That brings to mind how I asked again in November about web-casting committee meetings it was deferred again (they said until January 2015), but who would know as it wasn’t webcast.


A good example of why we need the Committees to be broadcast via the web just happened at the last RACS (Regional and Corporate Services Committee) and EASC where there was a verbal update on a proposed new aggregate bylaw, that could be voted on this Tuesday January 27th night at the board. With only a verbal report available at the committees, if you hadn’t made it to the meeting during the day, you would have to read the reduced version of the staffs verbal update and questions on the board agenda report of meeting minutes and staff report. By that time there isn’t much time to ask the staff questions and it is already too late to be a delegation on an important issue. To speak about an issue on the agenda, the FVRD’s has a 5 working day before the meeting delegation request timing required (although there is an emergency request status that is sometimes allowed up until noon the day before). Being able to watch committee meetings before decisions are voted on at the board could allow people that important information lead time needed to apply as a delegation if need be. That is a problem that I brought up in a delegation motion that was voted down.

I should note that some motion issues go directly to board.



RACS 7.2 verbal aggregate bylaw update and is now on the board agenda for approval.

The public will once again need to depend on a reduced version in the board minutes to know if there may be a reason for any concern on the updates, as there were no official public meetings about this new proposed aggregate bylaw.



Ironically at the November 2014 Board I once again noted that the EASC (Electoral Areas Services Committee) minutes written had inaccurate statistics stated (to do with an Area C  garbage study). So, imagine if the board were voting on issues based on inaccurate statistics or minutes or a selectively reduced version of a discussion from committee meetings. I can only think of two other people who disputed minutes during my entire 2 terms. In the future will there be anyone to try to rectify mistakes?  I say “try” because if the majority of the board disagrees with the person objecting to the way the minutes have been written, they will remain as is.  As an example I have been told that in essence, that if the majority of board votes that black is white, it would be written in the minutes as being white.

Not all of the voting board directors are members on the committees, so they may base some votes on or have questions based on the reduced written minutes that they only get a few days before a meeting. Another issue is that under the current FVRD chair Gaetz, debate has been curtailed, when there are sometimes still board directors with additional comments and questions. Many directors have expressed happiness over shorter meetings. Contrarily I prefer having all comments and questions heard. City directors who have 2 political pay-cheques are well paid to stay longer if need be. Having the committee meetings available for viewing online could at least help to clarify some issues already brought up and discussed at committee meetings, along with reports by staff, whom are not all always present at the board meetings to answer questions. This could reduce the time at board, before issues go to a board vote. It would give more time to directors between committee and board, who may sometimes need to get more clarity from staff on issues. It would also give the public time to contact either staff or their representatives in time to also apply as a delegation if need be.

That brings me back to the question of why after years of consideration and study did they not want to decide on the issue of web-casting committee meetings right away? Many directors have already had webcasting at their council meetings. I was told by someone working on the tech system, that the cost of broadcasting a committee meeting via webcast is included in the package that is all ready being paid for. How complex can this issue be, for a board that has touted the value of transparency?

As someone who enjoys studying history and sometimes find it useful, when I first realized that FVRD meeting minutes were not verbatim and reflected a cherry picked and sometimes opinioned version of the meetings, I was very horrified. That an official document could have a selective bias that could surmise in an edited opinion what myself or others may have meant in meeting dialogues instead of just writing the actual words, was very troubling. It certainly was not my view of what a proper record of history or democracy should be about. As the FVRD regional director that has been asking for accurate minutes for a large part of my 2 terms I should be the most elated that at least Board meetings are now online. You can’t get more accurate than that, right? Whether by Hansard type minutes, podcasts or webcast my main objective was to have an accurate, unbiased, full accounting for people that couldn’t make it to meetings.

Adding to my concern, last fall the board (aside from myself and another director) approved a new policy paper that allows the destruction of records over 6 years old and drafts. So I have further concerns over what will be changed or go missing from the records. In the new policy it states clearly that the CAO is responsible accurate minutes. That is a big responsibility. That responsibility could be simplified, if along with the complete version of committee and board meeting discussions available in webcasting for details, the written minutes were simplified so that only the motions and who voted for or against was recorded. The benefit of this approach is that only facts are recorded without an interpretation.  I have been told that this is how things are done in some other districts. This issue was deferred for years, starting in the days that CAO Gerry Kingston and then CAO George Murray was on staff and now with CAO Paul Gipps. I would continually bring it up, but it was routinely deferred to staff for months and then years…

I suppose that I really shouldn’t be surprised. My grade 8 social studies teacher who was a world traveler, taught us to always question what is written in history books, as it was often written by the literate & wealthy ruling class of a particular period & all too often did not represent the common people or those peoples who had been conquered.  Wouldn’t you know that my then favorite teacher was fired for his opinion and for not sticking to just teaching the text book version of history. Looking back I guess that taught me to always seek out alternative perspectives on the current issues of the day, to question everything & to always look at what the motives are of those who are presenting any kind of information.


Wendy Bales

2 term FVRD Electoral Area Director

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