As B.C. is now three phases into its restart plan, the province has decided it’s time for municipal council meetings to open back up to the public.
The City of Prince George has received a new ministerial order to allow residents to be in attendance at open council and council-committee meetings.
All other previous provisions under the previous ministerial order (No. M139) such as authority to conduct public hearings electronically and allowing councils to meet electronically remain in effect.
The new order (No. M192) requires that municipal councils use best efforts to allow members of the public to attend open meetings of the council, in a manner that is consistent with any applicable requirements or recommendations made under the Public Health Act.
For Prince George, with the physical distancing arrangements and sanitizing protocols currently in place for public attendance at those council meetings that include public hearings, staff does not foresee a situation where an open meeting of Council would need to be closed to the public.
City staff says council chambers and adjacent conference rooms should provide adequate space for members of the public to attend the meeting for observation or to provide representations to council.
Measures that support orders and guidelines of the Provincial Public Health Officer will remain. For example, staff will monitor physical distancing for compliance, explain safety measures, and continue with enhanced sanitizing of common surfaces.
However, staff will maintain discontinuing informal hearings, and recommend that formal public hearings be waived for rezoning applications that are either consistent with the Official Community Plan; have a staff recommendation of support, or are not expected to generate significant public input.
Under the previous ministerial order, municipal councils were permitted to adopt most bylaws at the same meeting that they were given first three readings. The new order now limits that authority to certain financial bylaws.
Specifically, under Order M192 only the following financial bylaws remain able to be given three readings and adoption on the same day: financial plan, revenue anticipation borrowing, municipal fees, annual property tax, parcel tax, permissive exemptions, revitalization tax exemptions, alternative municipal tax collection scheme and tax sales.
The next Prince George council meeting takes place tonight (June 29) at 6 p.m. at the city hall.
However, you will still be able to watch from home as the city always live streams its regular council meetings and will continue to do so.
You can find the full agenda for tonight’s meeting online.