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Mayor Bigger mulls a return to council chambers

Mayor Brian Bigger is considering a return to municipal council chambers at Tom Davies Square for city council and committee meetings as early as next month
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While publicly musing about a return to in-person city council and committee meetings, Mayor Brian Bigger suggested the shift back to Tom Davies Square could be as early as next month.

Greater Sudbury city council and committee meetings have been held in an exclusively virtual environment since the pandemic hit the region in March 2020.

Bigger pointed to the city’s vaccine policy as aiding in his decision, since among other things it mandates that staff and city council be fully vaccinated with an accepted vaccine by Nov. 15. 

“Without having formally sat down and developing an approach, it seems like a reasonable date,” Bigger said, giving a head’s up that he intends on raising the issue during next Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Although meeting chair and Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo said he didn’t intend on conducting a straw poll of elected officials during tonight’s meeting, Sudbury.com did just that last month. 

At the time, Sudbury.com found that city council appeared receptive to returning to council chambers, but also allow for continued virtual attendance when necessary. 

This desire for a blended in-person and virtual environment was reiterated tonight when Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini said that while he would “love to be back in council,” he values his ability to also attend virtually when he’s unable to attend in-person due to work reasons. 

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan also shared this view, noting that the city’s IT department is already working on the mechanics of allowing for blended meetings. 

“If we do run into situations during the wintertime where we’ve got a storm in the outlying area, then people could attend virtually instead of driving in and weathering the storm,” he said. 

Next week’s city council meeting will be an ideal time for this discussion, corporate services general manager Kevin Fowke said, and will tie in nicely alongside another agenda item.

Up for debate next week will be a report by city administration advocating that visitors to certain municipal facilities where longer visits occur will be required to show proof of vaccination.The list of required facilities includes all publicly accessible meeting and community rooms, including council chambers. 

Following provincial legislation, the City of Greater Sudbury already enforces a proof of vaccination requirement at municipal recreation facilities and city bylaw officers have adopted an education-first approach to enforcement. 

Meanwhile, The Canadian Press reported today that only fully vaccinated people will be allowed into the House of Commons precinct when Parliament resumes Nov. 22. 

Next week’s city council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday and a live-stream of proceedings can be viewed by clicking here

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.