Essex Councillors May Be Able To Attend Meetings Remotely In 2018

Electronic participation may be coming to Essex town council.

Town CAO Donna Hunter briefed councillors earlier this week on Bill-68, the Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act.

Under the act municipalities can now choose to have council members participate and vote on matters remotely when they can't attend a meeting.

"It's basically taking the legislation and trying to make it a little more current to today's world where we have social media and different ways of communicating," she says.

Several councillors spoke in support of the idea. Hunter says council can move forward with the change January 1, but they'll likely take a few months to figure out how to move forward.

"It's not something there's any precedence out there for right now, so what we'll likely do is wait and kind of see what other municipalities are doing with it," says Hunter. "I think we heard tonight that our council is interested in it."

The town will also have to decide which meetings would be included.

"They haven't defined what types of meetings, they've left that up to the municipalities to define," Hunter says. "But they have defined that it is only for open meetings and not for closed meetings."

Hunter says Bill-68 also gives integrity commissions more power, implements changes to code of conduct guidelines, and conflict of interest protocols — items Hunter says Essex will also be looking at in the coming months.

Those changes won't come into effect until April of 2018.