Cumberland’s council is moving ahead on some changes to procedures in light of new COVID-related practices such as electronic meetings.
At the Nov. 22 meeting, they passed first reading of the Council Procedure Amendment Bylaw. Staff are also giving public notice of the proposed changes to get input before the bylaw in finalized.
One provision being considered is a plan in the event of electronic meetings to allow for more flexibility when it comes to notification requirements, allowing approval the meeting be held electronically at the actual meeting, if necessary.
“That would be in emergency circumstances only,” corporate officer Rachel Parker said.
This includes situations like fires, explosions or forces of nature such as weather. The idea is to offer some flexibility but not in a way that the wording could be abused.
“The corporate officer must make a reasonable effort to notify all council members and the public in advance of the meeting,” Parker added. “Having that notice to all members of council and to the public is pretty crucial.”
Another change covers the number of councillors present in person at meetings. In this case, the amendment will allow up to two members to attend a meeting electronically, specifically if they cannot attend in person because of a health issue or a travel-related matter. In 2018, council had amended the bylaw to set the number at one.
Finally, the closed portion of regular meetings is to start at 4 p.m. and requires a week’s notification.
The procedural changes last came up at a committee of the whole meeting in October. At that time, council recommended first reading of the bylaw. With the reading passed, it can now go to the public for comment.
At the Sept. 7 meeting, council directed staff to prepare the various amendments to the bylaw, especially around the matter of electronic meeting participation. This covered scenarios in which electronic meetings might be necessary, such as a state of emergency or severe weather event.
Council had been holding regular meetings online for more than a year because of COVID-19 concerns before returning to in-person meetings this fall.