Lake Cowichan town councillor Bob Day.

Lake Cowichan town councillor Bob Day.

Low turnout for public hearing highlights lack of engagement

Social media: Councillor uncertain how effective online presence would prove to be.

Last Tuesday (June 23), town council hosted a public hearing regarding a zoning change request to a business in downtown Lake Cowichan. Though council designated a part of the process to public input, the floor was quiet, as only one member of the public was present at the hearing.

“I have certainly no objection to the [proposed] change, but I do question the process,” resident David Ridley said at the public hearing. “There’s nothing in writing saying who this applies to or what the process is. From the point of view of the public, something on what is proposed would be helpful… It’s not really open to public debate if the public isn’t aware of what it is.”

Though town council’s weekly meetings are open to the public, residents seem to take little interest in what transpires. Even meetings formatted for public participation, such as the recent release of the Town of Lake Cowichan’s year-end report – which contains information ranging from the town’s budget to projects initiated and completed in 2014 – see a very small turnout.

“People complain all the time, but they don’t know the facts,” councillor Bob Day said. “That book has all the facts… People complain about council not being transparent – there’s the booklet, it’s all laid out there.”

The town makes their meeting schedule, as well as the agenda for each meeting, freely available through their website (www.town.lakecowichan.bc.ca). But is that enough to engage residents? Day feels that the problem may be with the meetings themselves.

“I think the process intimidates people,” Day said.  “We get a bigger turnout at our bi-annual meetings at Centennial Hall, people feel less intimidated at that venue.”

Day added that the new town hall planned for Lake Cowichan could help alleviate the intimidation factor he feels is holding town officials and residents apart.

While many municipalities have taken to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, to bridge the gap between government and residents, Day said that the online avenue is simply too large of a job for the town to handle on its own.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District recently discussed the possibility of hiring a social media officer to manage these duties for Lake Cowichan and the rest of the Valley. However, the expected $110,000 salary would only pay off if enough residents were present on social media websites.

“There’s only so many people on Facebook,” Day said. “The boil water advisory is a good example of that — how do you get the word out? I’ve racked my brain, I’ve spent over 100 hours in my head thinking of how to get people engaged — through email? By knocking on doors? Through the newspaper?”

The next regular council meeting is planned for July 28 at town hall at 6 p.m.

How can the town better engage residents? Email editor@lakecowichangazette.com and share your thoughts.

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Blue Moon Marquee from Duncan will be featured at the 2021 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival on June 28. (Submitted)
Blue Moon Marquee to play Vancouver Jazz Festival

What’s coming up in the A&E scene

Sonia Furstenau, MLA
Proposed Health Professions Act would eliminate barriers, guide regulations

Is your doctor a member of good standing with the BC College… Continue reading

Grade 12 students Sophia Kazakoff and Catherine Yuan accept QMS’s Stigma Free Designation award from Stigma-Free Society president, Andrea Paquette. (Submitted)
Duncan’s QMS earns ‘Stigma-Free’ designation

“No school in the province has accomplished what QMS did in such a short period of time”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Most Read