COVID-19, Digitization, and the "New Normal" for Municipal Government: A Study of Three Ontario Cities
COVID-19, Digitization, Municipal Government, Ontario, Participation, Governance
The COVID-19 pandemic is viewed as both an unprecedented challenge and an impetus for digital transformation. During the pandemic, a “new normal” discourse emerged predicting a surge in digitization that would radically and permanently change organizations. This paper examines how the pandemic has affected municipal governments through case studies of the City of Windsor, City of Kitchener, and City of Burlington. It compares how each city adapted to the pandemic through digitization and investigates if such changes have transformed citizen participation and governance in the cities under study. The paper focuses on two ways citizens engage with local government: voting in municipal elections and delegating to councils and committees. The paper aims to understand how municipalities facilitated citizen participation during a period of public health guidelines in the province of Ontario which restricted many in-person activities. It finds that digitization was limited in its extent and scope and identifies resource, security, and accessibility considerations as primary barriers to the adoption of digital technologies.
Master of Arts