City council meetings to remain virtual through winter

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Ottawa mayor Jim Watson will continue to be the only person at his seat in the council chamber for at least another few months.

City council meetings in Ottawa have been virtual since the spring of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2021, city clerk Rick O'Connor said he would consider the possibility of "hybrid" council meetings, which would combine virtual and in-person participation, and would report back in mid-January.

However, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, O'Connor said it would be best to keep meetings virtual for now.

"Within the last few weeks, the Province has announced new time-limited measures to blunt the transmission of the highly contagious Omicron variant that is rapidly spreading throughout our City and around the world. The goals of the new measures are to minimize severe outcomes and strain on the healthcare system, as well as on maintaining essential services," O'Connor wrote in a memo to councillors Monday. "The City’s Senior Leadership Team is actively working alongside Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to implement all the measures required, and impacts to City services to date have included restricting work across multiple locations, suspending indoor recreation and cultural activities and event rentals, limiting in-person counter services and continuously updating the City’s overall health and safety protocols."

He said his office, in consultation with Ottawa Public Health, recommends pausing a return to in-person council meetings until at least March.

"My Office will provide an update to Members of Council by no later than March, 2022 with updated timelines and recommendations, following additional consultation with the OPH, taking into account the COVID-19 situation at that time," O'Connor wrote.

The first city council meeting of 2022 will take place Jan. 26 over Zoom.