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New remote work rules for Calgary city councillors up for vote

New rules for Calgary city councillors wanting to work remotely are expected this week.

Council is set to vote on changes that would allow them to dial in to debates on occasion.

The changes are aimed at reaching a balance between councillors’ schedules and the need for their full attention in debate.

Councillors are paid $120,000 a year — a salary that comes with many demands.

“Really long days — 12 hours, 10 o’clock at night, often multiple days in a row,” Coun. Jasmine Mian said.

Mian is the first councillor in the city’s history to give birth while in office, and she says she’s supportive of tighter virtual attendance requirements but wants to see exemptions based on Charter-protected circumstances.

“It’s not just about me and my specific situation. I’m actually just thinking about anyone,” she said.

Proposed changes will require councillors attending remotely to be in a private location with their camera on and no virtual background, with compliance to be monitored by the city’s ethics office.

In December, Coun. Dan McLean was censured after he missed a vote while working remotely from a golf course.

The new rules appear to be a response to the incident.

“Well, I did attend an industry event with several other councillors. I talked with the industry about homebuilders in our affordability crisis and then took the meeting after that,” McLean said.

An adjustment is justified, says one political watcher — to prevent abuse of the system.

“That option should be there, but the councillor was not working from home. He was working from the golf course. He was out on recreation time,” Keith Brownsey said.

Mian plans to introduce amendments at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I am the first woman to have a baby while in office here and that’s for a reason: because the job hasn’t largely been accessible, and so I think it’s thinking about how do we make it so that city hall actually looks like the people we represent,” Mian said.

Mian wants to make sure new mothers, people with disabilities or other health constraints are not removed from council consideration.

She agrees there is value in face-to-face discussions and that remote meetings should not be the norm — her concern is overly broad restrictions.

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