Municipalities deciding on future of in-person meetings

Howick Township Reeve, Doug Harding, standing in council chambers, Sept. 1, 2021. (Scott Miller / CTV London)

A few weeks ago, the Town of Minto decided it was going unplug from Zoom and resume in-person council meetings. But, this week, council decided it's sticking with virtual democracy.

“We were going to try to go to one of our auditoriums and space out,” says Mayor, George Bridge. "We thought we could make that work. We made those decisions in July, but since then we’ve had an uptick in cases, and it keeps going the wrong way,” he says.

In nearby North Huron, they’re going the other way. They’re next council meeting will be in-person, not in council chambers, but at the local Town Hall Theatre.

“Public is welcome,” says North Huron Reeve, Bernie Bailey. “Bring your mask. Keep your distance, and we feel we will be fine moving forward. We can’t sit around and hide behind this forever. We have to move the business of the day, along,” he says.

Down the road, in Howick Township, they’ve never stopped in-person meetings.

“We were able to do that because we only have five council members, and then our staff comes and goes in the meetings. We don’t go over the limit of our room capacity. It’s worked really well for us,” says Howick Reeve, Doug Harding.

Harding says poor internet in Howick made Zoom meetings almost untenable, as well, Especially in rural Ontario, the municipal push is on, to resume as many in-person council and public meetings as soon as possible.

“Unfortunately, no one has an answer, as to how long this is going to go on for, but I think we all realize, it’s going to be here for awhile. So we may as well adjust to it, make the best out of it, and move forward. Just work our way through it,” says North Huron’s,  Bailey.

In Minto, Zoom meetings will continue, but hopefully, not for long, says Mayor Bridge.

“We’re looking at a hybrid situation going forward, but really our interest is in falling back to being there in person. You get more interaction that way. You see people’s eyes, their body language. But until we get this virus under control, I really think we have to be more safe than we are at the moment,” he believes.

All the mayors CTV News spoke with, say they’ll continue to take the advice of the local Medical Officers of Health, as they navigate, public discourse.