Campbell River City Hall. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

Campbell River City Hall. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

Campbell River city council readies itself for possible return to virtual meetings

Coun. Cornfield: change to procedure bylaw made “just in case” to give more flexibility

With COVID-19 on the rise again, Campbell River city council has readied itself for a possible move back to holding its meetings virtually.

At the start of the pandemic around March 2020, city council moved to holding council and committee meetings virtually, meaning via online meeting platforms. This was possible through emergency amendments to the Council Procedure Bylaw and also Ministerial Orders that were part of the Provincial State of Emergency.

With those Ministerial Orders ending and the start of the Provincial Restart Plan, city council returned to in-person meetings at city hall in October 2021. Since then, city council procedure has limited the number of councillors participating in meetings virtually to three.

But now with COVID-19 rearing its head again, city staff recommended council prepare to be able to hold meetings fully virtually again by amending the city’s council procedure bylaw. Provincial approval to do this is not required, and can be achieved through a bylaw, said city manager Deborah Sargent, in the Jan. 10 council meeting.

City council passed a motion to adopt three readings of a bylaw to amend the city’s council procedure bylaw to allow fully virtual meetings during that Jan. 10 meeting. This motion passed unanimously, 7-0.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield said there is no plan to immediately return to virtual meetings, but rather this change was made “just in case.”

As was the case in past virtual meetings, there will be no gallery available for the public, should meetings move back online.

However, the public would still have opportunities to participate in the virtual meetings, as was the case previously, explained Elle Brovold, the city’s corporate officer. Should anyone not be able to participate by joining a virtual meeting, the city will make accommodations for them to attend city hall and join with a provided computer, she noted.

All meetings will continue to be streamed online and added to the city’s archive of council meetings on its website as well.

The change will give the city flexibility until there is a change to public health orders or a decision from council, said Brovold.

“Staff are just going to stand down and wait to hear otherwise — we will continue to host the meetings in this fashion, but this will give us full flexibility,” said Brovold. “Whether that’s for COVID, changes in the future, or another situation, the province has now changed the legislation to allow us to use this for any type of meeting.”

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