Cumberland council is making efforts to bring in video permanently, along with a safety plan to restore in-person council meetings.
In recent months, in response to pandemic restrictions, council has been hosting meetings online via Zoom, to allow the public to watch proceedings.
At the July 13 meeting, staff presented council with a report to make sure council meetings remain open and transparent. They were responding to requirements of a ministerial order from the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General under the Emergency Program Act in regard to open meetings. This also allowed councils to hold meetings electronically rather than in person due to COVID-19.
On June 17, the Province repealed that initial ministerial order that permitted electronic meetings and replaced it with an order calling for councils to make efforts to re-open public meetings in a manner consistent with the Public Health Act.
“The minister is asking councils to make their best efforts to make sure council meetings are open and transparent,” corporate officer Rachel Parker told council at the latest meeting.
The staff report also makes recommendations for the Village to work on a safety plan as well as continue efforts to bring in a video-conferencing system that will allow the Village to livestream meetings once it returns to in-person council meetings. In the meantime, council will continue to use Zoom to stream meetings over a YouTube channel.
They have taken other measures such as making agenda packages available on the website and offering means for people to submit email questions during question period at the end of regular council meetings.
“I would like to thank staff for all the extra work they’ve had to do with this. It’s just a tremendous amount of work,” said Mayor Leslie Baird.
The mayor also thanked Parker and chief administrative officer Clayton Postings in particular for “keeping us legal” during a period where everyone, including local governments, has had to adjust to new ways of conducting business.
“It’s a very important part of the process,” she added.
Coun. Sean Sullivan made a motion covering several measures, including not having members of the public attend open meetings until staff has developed a safety plan for open meetings, continuing to hold meetings electronically and making sure meetings are open and transparent. This includes providing notice at the Village office and on the website, as well as putting the agenda package online, and providing the means for people to observe the meetings electronically, along with submitting questions by email. Council passed the motion unanimously.