Upcoming council meetings in Cumberland will have one eye on the past and one on the future.
While council will be returning to live meetings, they also want to continue the electronic versions. For more than a year, since the pandemic started, local governments have received permission to hold electronic meetings on online media such as Zoom.
The plan now for the village is to continue offering a livestream and recording of meetings, even though the plan is to return to holding in-person meetings inside council chambers. The village has a new camera system for online broadcasting and set out a policy for which meetings would be recorded and livestreamed.
“We’re well on our way to having council meetings online permanently,” corporate officer Rachel Parker said.
The online meetings are not intended to replace in-person meetings. However, the village wants to make sure they will be allowed to have strictly electronic meetings when certain circumstances arise.
At the Sept. 7 meeting, Parker informed council the province’s current state of emergency expires as of Sept. 28, so council has to provide some direction to allow for electronic-only meetings. There was potentially a transition period in B.C. to the end of the year, but this is not the case.
“A lot of communities are scrambling to amend their procedures bylaws,” she said.
Council members approved a motion to direct staff to prepare amendments to the Council Procedure Bylaw allowing electronic meetings when there is a provincial state of emergency that directly affects the Village of Cumberland, a local or regional state of emergency affecting the village or during a weather event in which the health and safety of people attending could be at risk. The discretion could be left up to the mayor or corporate officer.
They also included provisions to receive questions for the question period at the end of meetings by email and to permit the closed portion of regular meetings to be held before the open portion no earlier than 4 p.m.
During discussion, council members suggested adding some other conditions to consider online-only meetings. Examples cited included situations in which there are security concerns or in which a council member is sick and does not want to spread a communicable disease. They also discussed different types of meeting, including public hearings and village hall meetings, and related matters such as question period.