Written by Laura Conrad
Traditional means of citizen engagement – such as town halls and meeting with constituents while out in public and in constituency offices – have all been severely affected by COVID-19. To better understand how Canadian municipal representatives are using technology to interact with their constituents during the pandemic, the Canadian Municipal Barometer’s 2021 annual survey asked representatives a new set of questions about digital citizen engagement.
Even before COVID-19, many municipal representatives were using digital communication tools to interact with their constituents: 90% of representatives were using email; 75% were using social media; and 68% were using direct communication with constituents through text messages, direct messages, or messaging apps.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, municipal representatives have adapted to new ways of communicating with their constituents: 52% of representatives have started holding private online meetings with constituents via zoom or other video services and 66% of representatives have started holding public online meetings (such as town halls and forums) over Zoom, Facebook live, or other video services.
Municipal representatives across Canada have quickly adapted to the new realities of living with COVID-19 to ensure citizen engagement continues whilst traditional means of engagement remain impossible. What remains to be seen, however, is which of these new means of communication, if any, will remain once COVID-19 is no longer a worry.