Vancouver and the province disagree on whether advisory committees can virtually continue to meet

The Vancouver City Advisory Committee may be forced to either meet in person or take a break due to a disagreement between the city and the provincial government.

Emergency province rules that allowed virtual municipal meetings expire on Sept. 29, and the city has told its advisory bodies that they must comply.

The city believes the province will need to amend the Vancouver Charter to explicitly allow committees to continue to meet virtually, but the Department of Local Government believes the city can hold virtual or hybrid meetings for all committees.

The issue is being closely monitored by the many volunteers who make up the city’s advisory committee, some of whom either face accessibility issues related to getting to City Hall, are immunocompromised or are worried about gathering in person while the fourth wave of the pandemic continues.

“We need to feel valued,” said Laura Mackenrot, co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Disability.

And if … our members will voluntarily spend their time, we will not risk ourselves or our family members in our lives to enter the town hall. “

Under the previous rules, people who participated largely could not vote and did not count for quorum. Mackenrot said the pandemic provisions had made her selection more productive.

“We’ve had the best numbers for participation,” she said, adding that it had helped both people facing physical accessibility challenges and parents who had difficulty finding child care.

Councils across BC begin to meet in person more often after 18 months of meeting virtually or with a single person chairing meetings of council chambers. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Advice can continue to meet virtually

While Vancouver says it is stymied for its volunteer committees, it is among many municipalities that have enacted a bylaw that allows virtual council meetings after Sept. 29 – or hybrid meetings where councilors can choose where to participate.

In addition, many municipalities have changed the rules so that the public can continue to call in comments instead of having to participate physically.

“Previously, you had to … sit and wait for your item to come up and then wait for your talk point to come up. And that can take hours out of the day,” the Vancouver Coun said. Pete Fry.

On Tuesday, the Vancouver Council met in person for the first time in 18 months, but it will allow councilors to participate largely if they choose.

Fry hopes a similar solution can be found for committees, but says there will be challenges.

“Whose [most people] is there physically, it is largely difficult to read the signs around the room, it is difficult to get a word in edge, ”he said.

“So there is work to be done to find out how a hybrid really works and works.”

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