Smiths Falls council debates efficiency of virtual meetings
Smiths Falls council recently debated the pros and cons of the virtual meeting format that has changed the face of municipal politics and global industry alike.
At Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole, Councillor Niki Dwyer spoke positively of the necessary shift from in-person meetings to virtual committee sessions. Dwyer highlighted the fact that the pandemic forced staff and council “to modernize much quicker than [they] would have” in previous years, adding that the availability of committee meetings on social media has made participation more accessible to people working full-time jobs and local youth wishing to pursue an interest in municipal government.
Councillor Peter McKenna agreed that e-participation should be an available option, but he added that citizen participation could be partially credited to restrictions placed on citizens during the pandemic.
“I would say that part of the interest in our council meetings is that there was not a lot else going on in the last year. People couldn’t go to too many things, so I don’t want to give a lot of credit to our dynamic group here and our riveting discussions.”
McKenna echoed Dwyer’s positivity about accessibility, but added he would like to see more research on the efficacy of virtual meetings. In reference to a recent discussion on TVOntario, McKenna said he would like to hear more evidence-based research as opposed to anecdotal confirmation of the obstacles overcome by virtual meetings.
Discussion of the e-participation format fit into a larger discussion of Smiths Falls council and their procedural bylaw, the framework by which council votes on everything from construction tenders and tourism initiatives to the minutiae of council proceedings.