Casual Legal: Virtual council meetings
By Andrew Skeith
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider
As part of the amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) included in the Red Tape Reduction Statutes Amendment Act, 2022, SA 2022, c 16, section 199 of the MGA was amended to allow council meetings and council committee meetings to be carried out by “electronic means”.
The wording of “electronic means” in section 199 is defined as “an electronic or telephonic communication method that enables all persons to hear and communicate with each other during the course of meeting”.
While most of us have been using Zoom and Microsoft Teams to conduct virtual meetings over the past two years, it should be noted that video is not a requirement for a council or council committee meeting held by electronic means. The minimum requirement for a meeting by “electronic means” is that everyone is able to hear and communicate with each other, meaning a council meeting could technically proceed by way of teleconference or similar technology.
However, in order for a council or council committee meeting to be held by electronic means requires the municipality to pass a bylaw allowing for that. Without a bylaw allowing electronic meetings to take place, if a council meeting was held electronically, any action of council taken during that meeting would be invalid.
Accordingly, Municipalities should ensure their bylaws are updated to allow for the holding of council or council committee meetings by electronic or virtual means. Any bylaws that allow for virtual or electronic meetings must:
- Specify the type of electronic means by which meetings are authorized to be held
- Specify a method to confirm the identities of each councillor attending the electronic meeting
- Specify how members of the public may attend the meeting and make submissions
- Specify how information and notice regarding the meeting will be made available to the public.
To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] abmunis.ca (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] abmunis.ca (email) to Alberta Municipalities' Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.