Ashcroft council will begin work on a public consultation process for the village’s burning bylaw, using both a virtual and mail-out format to ensure it reaches as many people as possible.
The process, which will begin with a preliminary questionnaire to collect public feedback, is expected to act as the “canary in the coal mine” for future public consultations, especially until in-person meetings can once again be held, Mayor Barbara Roden said at the March 22 council meeting.
Staff is expected to come back with a proposed list of questions that will then be mailed out or used in virtual meetings.
“Even when COVID is behind us, virtual meetings are going to form a large part in the conversations and discussions in reaching people. It’s valuable to explore different ways to communicate virtually, whether it’s Zoom or Microsoft Teams or live-streaming,” Roden said.
“At the same time, we must acknowledge and recognize that a lot of people in the community are uncomfortable with this technology. They do not want to use it and they do not want to learn how to use it. We need to respect that. If we decide to make the burning bylaw the canary in the coal mine for how we are going to communicate on things like this in this new world, we cannot and should not forget the people who will be shut out if we go to a purely technological or virtual format.”
Roden acknowledged the burning bylaw is going to be an issue that affects a lot of people, particularly those who may be adversely affected by health issues related to air quality from smoke.
Coun. Nadine Davenport agreed that the process is a good first step in creating a more “virtual Ashcroft. It will help us become more virtual-friendly.”
Coun. Deb Tuohey added that the Ashcroft HUB may be able to provide the opportunity for those who don’t have a computer or are uncomfortable accessing technology to participate in the online consultation from a room at the HUB.