March 9, 2020. That was the last time that Guelph City Council met in-person. Appropriately enough, almost exactly two years later, city council will once again be meeting in-person again starting on March 7. Well, half of them will be meeting in-person anyway. That’s one of the caveats announced by the City of Guelph’s clerks’ office on Tuesday, another sign that we’re slowly entering a post-pandemic world.
“With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and capacity limits across Ontario, we’re ready to welcome Guelph Council members back to City Hall and Council Chambers, if they so choose, under a new hybrid meeting model,” said City Clerk. Stephen O’Brien in a statement. “As we recover from COVID-19, we continue to provide an open and flexible municipal democratic process for our community.”
“Open and flexible” are the watch words. The new in-person council meetings will be a hybrid model. The meeting chair, whether that’s the mayor or one of the service area chairs in the case of Committee of the Whole, plus six other councillors will be present in the chambers at any one time.
The other six councillors will broadcast into the meeting from another location inside city hall or elsewhere. Which councillors appearing live will be up to the individual councillor, but if there’s more than seven people that want to appear in-person, you may see different councillors live as they appear in rotation.
Also allowed to appear live in the council chambers are the city clerk, the executive team, and, most importantly, members of the media. For now, the gallery will remain closed to the public, and every meeting will continue to be broadcast live on the City’s website.
Delegates? They will continue to appear via WebEx and phone for the time being, though the City’s media release did note that there is a hope that the chamber might be re-opened for everyone sometime later this year.
It’s been previously announced that there will be some upgrades done on the council chambers during the election recess later this year so that it’s easier to hold hybrid meetings with some attendees and delegates appearing in-person and others appearing remotely depending on the situation. It’s worth noting that Guelph was one of the first municipalities in Ontario to adapt to a COVID world holding its first emergency council meeting on March 23, less than a week after the first lockdown took effect.
The first council meeting of March is Committee of the Whole on Monday March 7 at 2 pm.