BIGHORN – The 21st century is calling and the MD of Bighorn has picked up.
Facing similar challenges as other municipalities to physically distance at least two metres while trying to host official meetings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the MD of Bighorn council will host its first virtual meeting this month.
“The idea is to meet, but stay isolated during the meeting,” MD Reeve Dene Cooper said.
The reeve and councillors will call-in during their May 12 meeting, while administration organizes the virtual aspect. This will be the first time since the MD started holding official meetings since the late 1980s that a council meeting will be virtually attended and live-streamed.
“Right now we are working on how to get the public involved for the delegation,” Cooper explained, noting it will likely be more of a viewing set-up and not participatory.
“They will be able to see the dial log and order of the meeting, the only thing the public will not be able to see is the in-camera, which we are now calling the closed section.”
In March, the MD of Bighorn suspended all council, committee, board and commission meetings for 30 days after the province declared a state of public health emergency under the Public Health Act.
The reeve stressed the importance of making sure Bighorn was taking the right precautions to ensure the whole council, which includes the reeve and four councillors, does not get sick at once – while also protecting municipal staff.
In April, the MD held a special meeting that passed a new electronic bylaw, allowing council and committee meetings to be conducted by means of electronic communication.
While MD Chief Administrative Officer Rob Ellis said it was the first time the MD had a bylaw of the type, he also noted the current situation.
“The MD did not have this type of bylaw before. We also didn’t have a pandemic and social distancing requirements,” Ellis previously told the Outlook.
“Having council and committee meetings electronically provides a safe way to conduct business and make decisions.”
As of April 30, there were 5,355 positive COVID-19 cases across Alberta with 21 recorded cases across the Bow Valley which includes Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise and Exshaw. The Alberta Health Services website stated there were three active cases and 18 recovered.
Last week, the province announced new relaunch efforts that included the opening of provincial parks as of Friday (May 1) and the potential of stage one reopening. That includes retail services, daycares, and restaurants, cafés, lounges and bars with 50 per cent occupancy limits, opening as early as the May long weekend.
Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reminded Albertans the fight is not over.
“Please continue to wash your hands, stay at home when sick, maintain physical distance and look out for each other in the days and weeks ahead,” Hinshaw said.
Meanwhile, Cooper said the use of new technology in the MD is something administration and council will continue to look into.
“We are looking into putting the whole council package online. We have gotten requests from council and from the public – the only problem is we don’t have a dedicated communications staff,” Cooper said.
“But yes, I think once we learn how to do it, it is a tool that will be available and be used when needed … I think democracy requires that kind of communication to be available to the public.
"So to be fully democratic, we will have to be fully technologically available.”
Go to mdbighorn.ca for more information on upcoming meetings.
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