Hamilton City Council Chamber Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

If approved by Council in two weeks, video conferencing will supercede in-person meetings after COVID

Hamilton city councillors on the Governance Committee voted unanimously to recommend that all future City Council meetings be conducted in a “hybrid” video format to enable members of Council to attend meetings from anywhere, for any reason.

The plan comes with a $124,000 per year additional cost, and an immediate $60,000 capital cost to install high-end tablets in the Council Chamber for any member of Council who wishes to participate in the video meetings while seated in the Council Chamber. Councillors will speak into the tablets during meetings instead of directly to each other in the Council Chamber as in the past.

The City will continue streaming meetings to the internet using its present low-definition video and lower quality audio systems instead of the high-quality streaming system built into WebEx software.

Councils will vote into web-based software instead of using the Council Chamber voting system.

To comply with the Municipal Act, members of the public will be allowed to delegate by video to committee level meetings.

“I personally think it’s it’s important for Council and standing committees to to convene around the horseshoe. However, I’m thinking about ways and means we could perhaps make sitting as an elected representative, more accessible”, says Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson. “If you are, for example, a single parent, and think we need to consider whether the ability to participate virtually, when necessary, could assist us in trying to support people front running for public office and setting as public representatives. I think we all benefit when we have a council that is representative of the of the community”.

The discussion on the change was brief. Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark and Ward 10 Councillor Maria Pearson both spoke briefly in support.

Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson did not attend the video meeting, and Ward 14 Councillor Terry Whitehead is on Council approved leave.

The recommendation will go to full Council on July 5th.