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Toronto set to make hybrid council meetings permanent

Toronto City Hall is seen in this file photo. Toronto City Hall is seen in this file photo.
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Toronto city councillors are set to make hybrid public meetings permanent.

The decision will be made at a city council meeting later this week.

Councillors have been participating in virtual council meetings—in one form or another—since April 2020 as the pandemic was ramping up across the country.

Officials say that 665 meetings between April 2020 and March 2022 were held entirely online, with 3,193 members of the public registered to speak.

As city buildings reopened after lockdown restrictions lifted, officials adopted a hybrid meeting model “to ensure that meeting participants have an equitable experience regardless of their method of participation.”

“The public has expressed that having the option to participate remotely allows for improved access and limits issues around childcare, time off work and other factors that may have previously limited their ability to attend a meeting in person,” officials said in a report being heard at this week’s council meeting.

“The hybrid meeting model allows the public to choose how they wish to address Committee, encouraging participation and increasing accessibility.”

Officials also noted that 27 decision bodies have requested they remain virtual only.

Council may amend the motion to provide restrictions on electronic participation, including limiting it to certain purposes such as medical reasons, parental leave or while travelling on city business. They may also require chairs to participate in person or mandate that members should either remote-in or participate in person for the full duration of the meeting.

The report says that regardless of council’s decisions, they should allow electronic participation to occur during a declared emergency.

The motion being considered would allow members meeting electronically to be counted in quorum. It also changes the time required to achieve quorum from 15 to 30 minutes.

If adopted, the same rules would apply to members of the public who want to participate in a hybrid meeting.

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