Nova Scotia

Virtual meeting rules passed by province met with displeasure by some HRM councillors

Some Halifax councillors are upset with new rules passed by the province that lay out how municipalities must conduct virtual council meetings.

'It's kind of rich coming from the level of government that actually chose not to meet during a pandemic'

Coun. Shawn Cleary is one of the councillors who expressed concerns about the new virtual meeting rules the province passed with Bill 98. (CBC)

Some Halifax councillors are upset with new rules passed by the province that lay out how municipalities must conduct virtual council meetings.

The province's minister of municipal affairs said Bill 98, which was passed last month, was adopted to allow for virtual meetings outside of an emergency situation such as the pandemic.

"This is what municipalities asked for," said Brendan Maguire. "Essentially, if there's a snowstorm or something that's hindering them getting together physically, they can meet."

City solicitor John Traves told Halifax regional councillors Tuesday the new rules state all participants must be seen and heard by the public, so their video should not be turned off.

"I'm not buying into this, this is ridiculous," said Coun. Tony Mancini. "When I choose to stand up or stretch, or speak to one of my kids who walk into my office, I'm turning my camera off."

Maguire says municipalities have led the way when it comes to holding virtual meetings. (CBC)

Coun. Waye Mason pointed out that video sometimes needs to be turned off to improve the audio because of internet issues.

Maguire said the requirement is to ensure transparency, but insists the video can be turned off temporarily.

"You have to make an effort to be there on camera as much as possible, but we do realize that life gets in the way," he said.

Other councillors pointed out that municipalities have held a lot more virtual meetings than the province.

"I think it's kind of rich coming from the level of government that actually chose not to meet during a pandemic," said Coun. Shawn Cleary.

Maguire said he agrees municipalities have led the way when it comes to virtual meetings, and the new legislation was adopted to support that.

MORE TOP STORIES

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

now