North Bay City Council will continue to conduct its council meetings electronically until at least the end of the year.
On March 19 the province enacted the Municipal Emergency Act 2020 to permit attendance at meetings to be held electronically.
The provincial government introduced Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 on July 8, “to amend various statues in response to COVID-19.”
This week council voted to amend its Procedural By-Law upon Bill 197 receiving Royal assent to allow members of Council and local boards or committees to participate in virtual meetings until December 31st of this year.
Royal assent was received on Tuesday, July 21.
The amendment to be prepared by the city clerk will be brought forward at a special meeting of council for approval.
As long as the province’s Emergency Order is in place council can continue to meet electronically.
Council will need to pass an amendment to its Procedural By-Law once the province lifts the Order.
“This is just giving us the flexibility to deal with our council meetings until we know a little bit more about where COVID is going,” explained Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch.
“All meetings will continue to be livestreamed via YouTube and Cogeco. But for now, this gives us until the end of the year,” said Vrebosch who does not see a safe way to open up council chambers to the public, council and staff at this time.
“There would have to be only two councillors where we normally sit. You would have to put some in the gallery part. We don’t have microphones in the gallery. You would have to limit how many people could also attend. How do you do that? How do you pick and choose who can go? So, there are other things to consider.”
The opportunity to make presentations to council still exists.
“Members of the public who wish to make a presentation will be able to do so via electronic participation through Zoom. If they do not have a computer available, they will be provided with a telephone number to call in,” said the Deputy Mayor.
Councillor Scott Robertson told council that conducting meetings in this fashion eliminates some of the anxiety associated with trying to social distance.
“This is going to be welcome news not just for me personally, but also the members of the committees that I serve with.”
Robertson said concerns regarding a return to in-person meetings are based on some committee members physical and social needs.
Council meets again on August 11th.