Inspector of Municipalities
The Inspector of Municipalities, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, is responsible for oversight of local government financial matters and approval of certain local government decisions to ensure consistency with provincial legislation. The role is important to the success of provincial-local government relations.
Roles and responsibilities
The Inspector of Municipalities' primary role is to provide oversight of key local government financial matters. Responsibilities include:
- Approving local governments' loan authorization bylaws for long- and short-term capital borrowing
- Reviewing the audited financial statements of municipalities, regional districts and improvement districts
- Approving local governments' development cost charge bylaws
In addition to financial oversight, the Inspector approves certain local government decisions to ensure consistency with provincial legislation. These approvals include:
- Regional district service area bylaws
- Various improvement district bylaws
- Creation of local government corporations
As well, the Inspector of Municipalities has some other specific authorities, such as making provision for a by-election when an improvement district board no longer has a quorum of trustees in office.
The Inspector of Municipalities has a significant role in the overarching framework of local government accountability and helps ensure the financial health and stability of all local governments in B.C.
When the Legislative Assembly first created the Office of the Inspector of Municipalities through legislation in the 1930s (a time of municipal bankruptcies), the Inspector was provided with authority to hold inquiries into the conduct of municipal business. While that authority remains in legislation, it has rarely been used. As an inquiry would be a significant adjudicative exercise, the matter would need to be one that affects the fundamental viability of a local government or have serious consequences for the local government system.
Direct or routine oversight by the Inspector of Municipalities has diminished over time because local governments generally have more resources and experience to draw upon and there is a more robust system of accountability in place, focused on local governments' accountability to the public.
Resolving local government-related concerns
Members of the public have several options if they have concerns about local government conduct, including
- Contacting staff and elected officials of the relevant local government to bring concerns directly to their attention.
- Contacting staff in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs who can often answer questions about local government legislation and authority.
- Contacting the Office of the Ombudsperson if a person feels they have been treated unfairly by a local government body on a particular decision or other matter directly affecting that person.
- Contacting the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner if a person feels that their privacy rights have been compromised or that they are not being given access to records to which they are legally entitled and for which their request for access has been denied.
- Contacting the auditor for the relevant local government if a person considers that a specific financial matter is not authorized under legislation, or there has been a misuse or other irregularity in the financial holdings of the local government.
- Initiating a judicial review in the British Columbia Supreme Court if an elector has evidence that its local government acted beyond its legislative authority in passing a bylaw or making another decision, or acted contrary to the legal rules of administrative fairness. Please be advised that independent legal advice is essential before considering a legal challenge.