How’s your municipal council doing?

By Matthew McCully

Check-ins with family and friends have been pretty commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, but how many Townshippers are keeping tabs on their town council?
Once gatherings were prohibited to prevent the spread of the virus, out went public council meetings.
The provincial government did, however, table a bylaw, 2020-004, later replaced by bylaw 2020-029 providing the rules governing the holding of council meetings during a health emergency.
The question is how many municipalities are following the rules?
According to the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation website, given the prohibition on indoor and outdoor gatherings, council meetings may be held without the presence of the public. Whenever possible, however, the municipality is encouraged to allow citizens to attend other than in person (e.g., by videoconference or telephone).
By-law 2020-029 of April 26, 2020, also sets out certain requirements to ensure the transparency of meetings that, by law, must be public. These requirements apply in particular to meetings of the council of a municipality, metropolitan community, public transit corporation or inter-municipal board. Such a meeting must now be made public, as soon as possible, by any means that allows the public to know the content of the discussions among council members and the outcome of their deliberations. To meet this obligation, the municipality may, in particular, use one or other of the following means:
– the publication of an audio or audiovisual recording of the meeting made by means of a device such as a tablet, telephone or camera;
– the complete transcription of the deliberations of council members in a document accessible to the public;
– broadcasting the council meeting on a digital platform or by other means that allow citizens to access it.

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