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Mayor invites city council to return to Tom Davies Square

Greater Sudbury’s elected officials have been invited to return to council chambers, but the public will have to wait a bit longer until they’re allowed back in
Labour Day 6
Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger.

Mayor Brian Bigger has invited Greater Sudbury city council to return to council chambers for hybrid in-person and virtual city council and committee meetings. 

The public, meanwhile, will have to wait a bit longer until they receive their invitation. 

Bigger pledged the invitation at the start of Tuesday’s city council meeting, saying that although rising COVID-19 numbers remain a concern, now’s the time for city council to return if they so choose.

A handful of the city’s elected officials had previously indicated to Sudbury.com that they are supportive of a hybrid model. Some events, such as the Wordstock Sudbury Literary Festival, planned for Nov. 4-6, have also adopted a hybrid model to accommodate pandemic concerns.

“The province has also recently created a framework and a calendar for a return to normal,” Bigger told his colleagues. 

“The way we’ve been working together has been successful and our hybrid model allows councillors to be here, at home or in any space where they can communicate clearly, understand and be understood.”

The option to return is open-ended, Bigger said, noting that he took part in Tuesday’s meeting from council chambers, something Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier has been doing throughout the pandemic. 

“I want to assure everyone that clerks and administration generally have ensured through consultation with Public Health that the chamber’s spacing is in compliance and that measures have been taken that allow for a return of council to council chambers.” 

This isn’t a directive to return to council chambers, he clarified, referring to it only as “an invitation.”

The following day, the mayor’s chief of staff, Hugh Kruzel, clarified that the invitation was limited to city council members and that they’d see how things work for two or three meetings before looking to invite the public.

The mayor, he said, “just wants to do what’s right, and if we can function better in person, maybe that’s the thing.”

“We’ve got to make sure there’s the right amount of space so we can conform to public health guidance.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Bigger also said that he’s awaiting guidance from Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts.

Greater Sudbury city council shifted to a virtual-only setting during the early days of the pandemic in March 2020, and Bigger first publicly mulled about a return to council chambers during last week’s finance and administration meeting. 

At the time, 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.

A report by city administration was on Tuesday night’s agenda that advocated for visitors to certain municipal facilities where longer visits occur, such as council chambers, to be required to show proof of vaccination. The meeting timed out before city council could discuss it. 

Regardless of whether the public is invited to attend meetings in-person, city council and committee meetings will continue to be livestreamed online and can be accessed by clicking here.

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