Local government & provincial concurrent authority

The Community Charter recognizes that, in four spheres, municipalities and the provincial government have a shared interest in regulating activities.

The Community Charter concurrent authority provisions apply to bylaws that deal with:

  • Public health
  • Protection of the natural environment
  • Wildlife
  • Prohibition of soil removal or prohibition of deposit of contaminated soil

Municipalities are provided with powers to adopt bylaws on matters covered by these spheres of concurrent authority. However, this municipal authority is subject to provincial involvement.

Regional districts do not have the same scope of regulatory authority as municipalities, and are empowered to enact bylaws in relation to two of the four spheres (public health and prohibition of soil deposit or removal), subject to the Community Charter’s concurrent authority rules.

Provincial Involvement

Any new municipal bylaw or amendment to an existing bylaw that relates to one of the four spheres of concurrent authority requires provincial government involvement. Bylaws related to the four spheres of concurrent authority must do one of the following:

  • Comply with a regulation of the responsible minister
  • Comply with an agreement between the responsible minister and the municipality or regional district
  • Be approved by the responsible minister

Four ministers are designated as responsible for the four spheres of concurrent authority. The designated minister has primary responsibility for the matters covered in the respective sphere:

  • Public health – minister responsible for the Public Health Act
  • Protection of the natural environment - Minister responsible for the Environmental Management Act
  • Wildlife - minister responsible for the Wildlife Act
  • Prohibition of soil removal - minister responsible for the Ministry of Energy and Mines Act
  • Prohibition of soil deposit – minister responsible for the Environmental Management Act

How to Proceed

Before adopting a bylaw, each municipal council or regional district board must determine if the matter under consideration falls within a concurrent sphere of authority, whether they require some form of provincial involvement and if so, what form.

The council or board will want to determine if there is a relevant regulation in place. By regulation, the responsible minister may define the scope of the provincial interest regarding a particular sphere of concurrent authority. If a bylaw is in accordance with the relevant minister’s regulation, the bylaw may be adopted without having to obtain specific ministerial approval.

The Responsible Minister Regulation under the Community Charter designates the minister responsible for each of the four spheres of concurrent authority. As the names of the ministries responsible for various Acts may change, always check to confirm current responsibilities

Statutes & Regulations Relating to the Community Charter’s Concurrent Authorities

Some provincial regulations have been developed regarding concurrent authority. Section 9 of the Community Charter provides that a minister’s regulation may:

  • Establish matters for which local governments may exercise their concurrent regulatory authority without provincial involvement
  • Restrict or set conditions for the exercise of that authority
  • Specify those matters subject to the responsible minister’s approval

As well, other legislation may restrict a local government’s activities within a sphere of concurrent authority.

Public Health Bylaws Regulation

The Public Health Bylaws Regulation requires that a municipal council or regional district board must consult with the regional health board or the medical health officer responsible for public health matters within the jurisdiction before any health-related bylaw can be adopted.

Bylaws relating to the protection, promotion or preservation of the health of individuals or the maintenance of sanitary conditions must be deposited with the responsible minister. A bylaw that restricts or has the potential to restrict an individual’s access to health services or that may impact health authority resources will require the responsible minister’s approval.

A Consultation Agreement (PDF, 631KB) among the ministry responsible for health, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the ministry responsible for local government establishes an intergovernmental mechanism to share information regarding the operation of the Public Health Bylaws Regulation.

Spheres of Concurrent Jurisdiction—Environment & Wildlife Regulation

The Spheres of Concurrent Jurisdiction - Environment and Wildlife Regulation provides that municipalities may autonomously regulate, prohibit and impose requirements in relation to certain matters:

  • Activities affecting waterways
  • Sale of wild flowers
  • Application of pesticides for certain purposes (often referred to as cosmetic uses)
  • Control and eradication of some alien invasive species
  • Control of some wildlife species
  • Feeding or attraction of specified dangerous wildlife
  • Plastic waste reduction

The regulation does contain some specific restrictions on municipal powers in relation to the application of pesticides. For the purpose of the regulation, “wildlife” has the same meaning as in the Wildlife Act. The regulation authorizes municipalities to implement bylaws on certain single-use plastic items to reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions and litter in communities, while encouraging greater use of sustainable alternatives.

Soil Removal & Deposit

No regulations have been developed in relation to the prohibition of soil removal or deposit. All municipal and regional district bylaws prohibiting soil removal or prohibiting the deposit of soil or other material (making reference to the quality of the soil or to contamination), require approval of the responsible minister.

Former Concurrent Authority: Building & Construction Standards

Prior to 2017, the Community Charter recognized building standards as a concurrent authority. Both the B.C. government and local governments continue to have building regulation authority however this overlap is no longer a concurrent authority under the Community Charter.

Building regulation authority is now governed by the Building Act and establishes the B.C. government as the primary authority for setting building requirements and makes local government building regulation bylaws subject to provincially legislated requirements. This means that local governments cannot override provincially legislated requirements.

Collaboration remains a central feature to ensure the need for consistency is balanced with the ability to meet local needs. Local governments can also now regulate building matters without any provincial involvement in some limited circumstances.