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Livestreamed Richmond Hill council meetings attracting viewers

Most popular meeting focused on integrity ruling
March 10, 2015
BY Kim Zarzour

Richmond Hill residents, it appears, do find local politics interesting - so much so that livestream videotaping will now be expanded.

When councillors first discussed the possibility of livestreaming meetings back in 2010, it was met with some skepticism.

Some councillors pointed to the small audience in council chambers as evidence that citizens don’t want to watch local politics.

“I’m thinking back to the number of people who have contacted me by any form of communication to articulate their request to have this council streamed. Oh, that would be no one,” Ward 1 Councillor Greg Beros said in an October 2012 discussion of livestreaming meetings.

Councillors then were discussing a newly presented staff report recommending they award a contract for video-streaming services at a cost of $478,533.

The cost to livestream has dropped significantly since then, while interest in the community appears to be robust.

Last March, the town began a pilot project to livestream council meetings and this month, staff reported the videos attracted almost 700 viewers for some meetings. In general, viewership ranged from 27 to 662 online viewers.

While Richmond Hill was one of the last municipalities in York Region to provide the service, livestreaming is now viewed, according to a staff report, as a means of assuring accountability, transparency and accessibility in keeping with the town’s strategic plan to create “stronger connections in Richmond Hill”.

The most-watched livestream was a Dec. 15 meeting that dealt with lingering controversy from the previous year: the integrity commissioner’s ruling on former Ward 2 councillor Carmine Perrelli’s unauthorized townwide mailout, and repayment of legal fees incurred by Mayor Dave Barrow defending himself against court action by mayoral opponent Sridhar Methuku.

Livestreaming has been enhanced in recent months to allow viewers to see delegations as they address council.

There are plans to include the monitor views of actual motions and presentations that are currently only visible to those sitting in the town’s East Beaver Creek council chambers.

Council agreed Monday night to continue to use the current livestream product being piloted and to expand its use to cover all council and committee meetings, including budget committee of the whole, committee of the whole, formal council meetings, council public and special council meetings - all held in the council chambers - at a cost of about $6,000 for 2015.

Livestreamed videos or archived videos and MP3 audio recordings can be viewed at

Newmarket, Georgina, Aurora and Toronto also provide both livestreaming and archived videos of specific meetings, according to the staff report.