Politicians in Sarnia, Ont. will decide Monday whether or not to extend the use of online videoconferencing for council meetings.
A motion will ask councillors to endorse a one-year trial period.
The city’s mayor says the move is not designed to end in-person meetings, but instead to create a hybrid model.
Mayor Mike Bradley says councillors and staff will be expected to be in-person unless pressing civic, travel, weather or personal matters prevent them from doing so.
Bradley says council meetings which utilize Zoom have proven effective.
“As long it is a legitimate reason they [politicians] can’t be in the room, I think it would be very effective in engaging the council on a regular basis. If you’re away and want to participate in the meeting, you can do that now,” he adds.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley on Sunday, April 10, 2022. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)Bradley says the move to online meetings was discussed pre-pandemic and now he argues COVID-19 has shown they can work.
“Its time we embrace new technology,” he says, adding Zoom meetings have made it far easier to hear from out-of-town delegations.
The County of Lambton has already made a similar switch.
Since the pandemic began two years ago, all city council meetings in Sarnia have been online. If approved, the change would begin May 9.
Ultimately, Bradley says allowing some participation by Zoom ensures all views are heard, even when a councillor cannot physically attend.
“For instance last year, I went through a major operation and I really couldn’t participate and now I can,” he says.
However, Bradley warns that if Zoom meetings are abused, “it will be dealt with.”