Councillors meet online as industrial action continues
Yellowknife’s city council held virtual meetings on Monday as a labour dispute with unions representing municipal workers continues.
Rather than the normal appearance of the city’s live-streaming technology, Monday’s lunchtime meeting – the first of two – took place in a format that did not publicly display the cameras of councillors.
Whether any of the participants were in City Hall to take the meeting was not clear.
Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty later said councillors’ cameras did not appear owing to a technical fault rather than a conscious decision.
“The webcast camera should have zoomed in on the … screen that shows all of council, like we did during Covid. It’ll be fixed before our meeting tonight,” Alty said by email, adding that the city would try to make a recording of the lunchtime meeting available that showed councillors’ faces, “so that folks can see council.”
In their lunchtime meeting, councillors briefly discussed how some federal funding to tackle homelessness will be used. After just under 10 minutes, the meeting moved in camera – meaning its proceedings stopped being public – to deal with a heritage committee matter. The entire meeting, including the brief in-camera portion, wrapped up after 15 minutes.
The ongoing strike and lockout had not been on Monday’s agenda and was not added to it by any of those present.
Councillors’ Monday lunchtime meetings, known as Governance and Priorities Committee, ordinarily serve as a home for briefings and preliminary discussions ahead of formal decisions taken at evening full meetings.
Their durations vary considerably depending on the matters at hand: in the past three months, the public portions of GPC meetings have run for as long as three hours and as little as three minutes.
So far, the city’s primary spokesperson on its dispute with the unions has been city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett. The voices of Yellowknife’s mayor and council have been heard less frequently.
Several councillors who are also Union of Northern Workers members issued a joint statement when the union addressed a public letter to them last week, and one councillor, Cat McGurk, made a live radio appearance that briefly touched on the issue of the strike. Mayor Alty, who published a statement before the work stoppage commenced last week, has subsequently sought mostly to amplify statements issued by City Hall.
Mediated talks between the unions and the city were expected to continue on Monday, though there was no update regarding those discussion as of 7pm.
The day’s second gathering of councillors, a full council meeting on Monday evening, took less than five minutes from start to finish – this time with councillors visible on the webcast, most appearing to be at home. Alty appeared in an office setting.
Labour relations did not form part of a relatively light agenda that touched on a tax arrears auction and the appointment of members to a homelessness advisory board.
Since the fall’s election, several councillors have turned to a previously little-used item that appears as standard on council agendas – members’ statements – to provide their views on topical issues.
However, during a pregnant pause left by Alty when that item was reached on Monday evening, no councillors took the opportunity.