Section 128(1) of the Community Charter gives municipalities the opportunity to conduct special council meetings using electronic and communications media, such as telephone and video conferencing. This section also authorizes municipalities to allow individual council, or committee members, to participate in council or committee meetings through such media, when the member is unable to attend in person.
The intent behind this provision is to provide flexibility to councils in conducting business, without compromising the rights of the public to have access to the decision-making process. The legislation does this by setting standards, which require a municipality to:
* include the process for electronic meetings in the municipal procedure bylaw;
* provide notice of electronic meetings; and
* provide the appropriate facilities and equipment to give the public the opportunity to hear, or hear and see, the participation of council members.
When to Consider
Conducting Special Council Meetings Electronically
In general, municipal councils conduct their business during regularly-scheduled meetings. However, there will be occasions when a council needs to call a special council meeting.
The following are examples of these occasions.
* A new bylaw may be required to prohibit a particular activity that, in the absence of the bylaw, would likely occur in the very near future. If council’s regular meeting schedule and the need to separate the first three readings of the bylaw from fourth reading and final adoption would result in unacceptable delays, a special meeting may be held for timely adoption of the bylaw.
* Council may choose to schedule special meetings at budget time to allow members to focus solely on their review of the municipality's proposed financial plan.
* Councils may choose to hold special meetings to debate important development projects or the implications to the municipality of major events.
Whether they are called to take care of urgent business or to consider key matters, special council meetings are important. Generally, all members of council will want – and in certain cases, need – to attend. However, in cases where attendance is not possible, council could choose to hold the special meeting electronically.