North Grenville Municipal Council has made the decision to maintain their ability to conduct virtual meetings.
Under a Procedural By-Law, Council were authorised to conduct electronic meetings through the end of August. This was intended as an interim measure, allowing Council to continue to meet while Covid-19 emergency measures were in place.
At a public meeting on July 20, however, a new by-law was enacted that allows Council to continue to hold virtual meetings. It will be at the direction of Council to determine whether Council meetings will be held in-person, electronically, or as a hybrid of these methods.
This provides a great deal of flexibility to councillors, as well as to the public.
Our local councillors are not the only ones coping with this question. As Covid-19 restrictions ease throughout the province, many organizations and individuals are left wondering if the methods we adopted out of sheer necessity during the pandemic might actually make sense long term.
Virtual meetings reduce carbon emissions, save time and money, and can increase opportunities to connect.
At the July 20 meeting, Councillor Kristin Strackerjan said, “to highlight what we’ve learned over the last year and a half, when people are sick, some people don’t stay home because they feel obligated to attend meetings.”
For both economic and social reasons, people all too often feel pressure to show up, even when it may not be in their best interest to do so. Councillor Strackerjan noted that ongoing flexibility, in “everyday life, work, school, and so on – it certainly applies to council meets as well – is an important option to have.”
Allowing for virtual meetings is also important “when it comes to overall inclusiveness and accessibility”, she noted.
For a variety of reasons, it is not always possible for people to attend council meetings in person. The possibility for hybrid meetings makes municipal politics more accessible to every member of our community.
Of course, as Mayor Peckford noted at the meeting, the true accessibility of a virtual meeting hinges on a good internet connection.