City council is one of those things that has more less operated the same way for decades, You’ve got your elected officials, and the relevant City staff around the big central table, media covers the goings on from their appointed desk, and there’s a gallery full of spectators and supplemental staff who will take part in the meeting when called upon. It’s simple, and it’s how things have always been done... at least until COVID-19.
As part of its COVID-19 emergency measures, the Ontario government amended the Municipal Act to make certain allowances for cities, towns, and regional governments to hold meetings remotely. Guelph was one of the first early adapters to go to the digital council meeting, and the first COVID response meeting happened on March 23, a little over a week after Guelph, and indeed the country, shut down in response to the outbreak.
Those initial forays on March 23, and then again on April 16, led to an adjusted summer schedule for council that allowed them to handle City business while keeping physical distance and then also creating a way for council to hear from the public. Has it been an adjustment? Yes, but it’s seemed like an easy one, at least from the point of view from council observers. So how has it been going behind the scenes?
On this podcast, we’ll talk to the man best qualified to discuss those behind the scenes details, City Clerk Stephen O’Brien. O’Brien will review the changes that have allowed the virtual meetings, and whether they were considered before COVID-19. He will also talk about the advantages and disadvantages of virtual council meetings, and which of those changes might remain after the immediate effects of the pandemic are over. And finally, O’Brien will talk about the current status of the ward boundary and council composition review, and when you will be able to have your say about what council might look like in 2022.
So let's talk about how council meetings have changed in the pandemic era on this week's Guelph Politicast!
City council meetings will continue next week with the planning meeting of council, and the latest COVID-19 response meeting. In September, city council will return to a more regular schedule while still being physically distant, and stay tuned to Guelph Politico for all that coverage.
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