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Bighorn passes new bylaw to comply with physical distancing

“The MD did not have this type of bylaw before. We also didn’t have a pandemic and social distancing requirements."
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BIGHORN – In the new world of COVID-19 and physical distancing, municipalities across Alberta are figuring out how to host safe meetings, including the MD of Bighorn.

During a special meeting held last week, council passed a new electronic communications bylaw, allowing council and committee meetings to be conducted by means of electronic communication. 

“The MD did not have this type of bylaw before. We also didn’t have a pandemic and social distancing requirements,” MD Chief Administrative Officer Rob Ellis said in an email.

“Having council and committee meetings electronically provides a safe way to conduct business and make decisions.”

The new bylaw comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has been sweeping the province since the first positive case was discovered on March 5. In the last month, the number of positive cases has grown to 1,250 with 23 reported deaths. As of April 5, the Canmore region, which includes some of the MD hamlets, had 12 confirmed cases and the neighbouring Banff region had three confirmed cases.

Since the pandemic started, the provincial government has enacted public safety measures, including the shutdown of non-essential businesses and restrictions of public gatherings to a maximum of 15 people.

“The measures we have in place are to protect all of us,” Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during an April 3 press conference.

“Until we have more information about who may be at greatest risk, and more evidence about treatments, the best way to prevent severe illness is for all of us to perform physical distancing.”

The province also asked that individuals practice physical distancing, formerly called social distancing, where people keep at least six feet apart from others when going out for groceries, medical trips and other essential needs.

"We need to move forward together, even though we are physically distanced, to ensure we each do our part and take care of each other during this time," Hinshaw said.

The same day the province announced a state of public health emergency under the Public Health Act, the MD of Bighorn announced its decision to suspend all public meetings, including council, committee, boards and commission meetings for 30 days, starting March 17.

“We have to be careful we are managing social distance to impede containment should it occur,” Reeve Dene Cooper told the Outlook at the time.

With a Reeve and four councillors, Cooper stressed the importance of making sure everyone takes the right precautions to ensure the whole council does not get sick at once – while also protecting the rest of the administration staff.

“There are still some issues regarding public participation in the meetings and that is being clarified by Municipal Affairs. Until that matter is addressed, there is a low likelihood of having a virtual meeting of council or a committee in April,” Ellis wrote. 

For more information on how the MD of Bighorn is handling the pandemic, go to mdbighorn.ca.

 

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