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Didsbury council strikes no photos, recordings provision from bylaw

Legal opinion was sought, confirmed the municipality could legally restrict recording devices during council meetings

DIDSBURY - Town council has approved an updated procedural bylaw for conducting orderly council meetings.

The move came by way of motion on third reading at the recent regularly scheduled council meeting. 

The original draft for Bylaw No. 2020-12 included sections that would have restricted photographs and audio recordings.

Specifically, Section 28 regarding recording devices stated: “No unauthorized video or audio recordings may be made of any portion of the council meeting. Similarly no unauthorized internet recordings or transmissions are to be made of any portion of the council meeting.

“Permission may be granted to news organization representative to use audio devices, from their seats, for the purposes of preparing their news stories. Such allowances will be at the discretion of the chair.”

As well, Section 29 stated: “No pictures may be taken of any portion of the council proceedings or interior of the council chambers. Permission may be granted to news organization representatives to take a picture that may be associated with a news story. Such allowances will be at the discretion of the chair.”

During the Jan. 26 council meeting, councillors instructed administration to seek a legal opinion on whether the town could legally restrict the taking of photographs and audio recordings.

At the Feb. 9 council meeting, the town's chief administrative officer (CAO) Ethan Gorner said that a legal opinion was sought and confirmed that the municipality could legally restrict recording devices during council meetings.

However the policy and governance committee, following meetings on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, recommended that those sections restricting recordings be deleted, he said.

The sections were removed from the final bylaw.

Coun. Dorothy Moore is chair of the policy and governance committee.

“I’m really pleased that we are bringing this forward in this form,” said Moore.

Mayor Rhonda Hunter said she supported the removal of the proposed sections regarding recordings and photographs.

“I’m pleased that the committee removed that section(s). I appreciate that and all the work our committees are doing to bring these clear and clean and thoughtful documents to us,” said Hunter.

Regarding the framework of meetings, the new bylaw states, in part, that, “The chair presides over the meeting and all comments and questions shall be addressed through the chair. This includes members of council and other participants including delegations.”

Regarding agenda distribution, the bylaw states, that, “The CAO will ensure copies of the agenda are available to council members before each regular council meeting generally two days before the meeting.”

Regarding people wanting to appear as a delegation before council, the bylaw section 22 states, in part, that, “A request will be deemed to not have merit if it is, including but not limited to, the following: “Is a re-address of a previously heard issue, where there is no new information being brought forth; incoherent; libelous, impertinent or improper; is irrelevant to town business or not in the scope of local government; self-promoting or politicking.

The original proposed line in section 22 stating “attacks administration or council, whether individually or as a group” was removed.

All councillors present voted for third reading of the bylaw. Coun. John Baswick did not attend the Feb. 9 council meeting.