Coun. Ana Bailao held her dog on her lap – the Maltipoo, which she adopted of her choice because she needed unconditional love.
Coun. Anthony Perruzza ate an apple. Or maybe it was a pear – the resolution at the historic first Toronto City Council meeting in cyberspace wasn’t consistently great.
And as far as could be seen, everyone wore pants to Thursday’s meeting, which was streamed live on YouTube, unlike those that will go down in meme history for wearing a shirt, jacket, tie and boxer shorts Hold professional meetings that take place virtually between colleagues who work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was fiddling. City councils needed to be reminded to turn on their microphones to speak. It took a long time to record the votes, as each city council had to be convened individually. In the town hall you can vote by tapping a button on your desk.
In a typical chamber council meeting, observers, including the media, sit in the gallery behind the council members.
The cyber format meant viewers had to face council members, and we learned things: Coun. Stephen Holyday has an epic poker face that he can maintain for hours.
At home is the humble coun. Paul Ainslie drinks from a mug that says Dad. Man. Legend.
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong was accused on Twitter of using the Don Valley Parkway as a backdrop. In fact, Minnan-Wong met with the Webex app used on Thursday so many times that he worked out the functionality for background images. He chose Don Valley because it is in his community in Don Valley East.
City councils voted to shorten the lunch break – from 90 minutes to one hour, with Coun. Joe Cressy, who was recently reunited with his newborn son, is pushing for it to be cut to half an hour, presumably to keep another marathon working day in check for the city health department chairman.
“Everyone is at home and has access to food,” he said.
Not everyone. Mayor John Tory broadcast from his desk in City Hall in front of a painting of Toronto in 1854 when the city was a few boats and wharves in port and 40,000 souls ashore – well before the 1918-20 Spanish flu epidemic and the COVID-19 epidemic of 2019-20.
The city workers who populated the meeting from the town hall also had to eat.
Tory has been lithe – he had plenty of time to practice his remote gaming – he spent 14 days in self-isolation after traveling to London at the start of the pandemic and learned to keep in touch with books via his iPad in his apartment.
Coun. Frances Nunziata, who often chairs meetings with severity and charming impatience, kept her sass in check for the most part, save for a brief argument with Coun. Jim Karygiannis, who was accused of not turning on his microphone, declared indignantly: “I have it on very well!”
Like many of us, councilors are getting a look that hasn’t been widely used since the 1970s, before personal care reached its current peak.
Her hair is longer, looser, discolored, there are more five o’clock shadows, more beards with coun. Mike Layton achieves a beard worthy of Ernest Hemingway.
Despite everything, despite the awkward audio and blurry motion and the occasional handover of the camera, the city council somehow managed to run town business and slipped into a familiar pattern by the afternoon, the Coun. Gord Perks drops his head on his desk in frustration.
“Some things will change and some will not because of the pandemic,” Perks said on Twitter.
@polakatropical wrote back, “Never change.”
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter who covers City Hall and local politics for the star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF