Local government council and board procedures
Municipal council and regional district board procedures cover:
- Council and board decisions made by bylaw or resolution
- Council and board member attendance, participation and voting
- The role of the mayor, chair or presiding member at a meeting
- Voting by council and board members
- The procedure bylaw
On this page:
A bylaw is a law that legally implements a decision made by a municipal council or regional district board. A bylaw is typically necessary for a local government to take actions that direct what persons may, may not or must do. For example, a bylaw is needed to regulate, prohibit or impose requirements in relation to a service, or to impose a municipal property tax or fee.
A resolution is a formal expression of opinion, will or intent. For example, a resolution is needed to enter into an agreement or establish an expense policy for council or board members.
Local governments make decisions by bylaw or resolution, and may only validly act on that basis. If the legislation specifies that something must be done by bylaw, it may only be done by bylaw. If the legislation does not specify how a power is to be exercised, the council or board may use a resolution or bylaw.
Bylaws are adopted and resolutions are passed by votes at any legally convened meeting of a council or board, subject to the limitation that bylaws may not be voted on or adopted at closed (in-camera) meetings.
Before a bylaw is adopted by a municipal council or regional district board it must be voted on at three readings by the council or board. For some bylaws, certain requirements must be met between the readings and before adoption, such as approval of the electors or approval by the Inspector of Municipalities.
Locally elected officials are expected to attend every meeting, participate and vote. For example, meeting participation is one of council members' statutory responsibilities under the Community Charter. If an elected official is absent from four consecutively scheduled regular meetings or for 60 days, whichever is longer, they are disqualified from holding office—unless the absence is due to illness or injury, or the person has permission from the council or board to be absent.
Final decisions about disqualification and removal from office are made by the Supreme Court, on application by the local government or by 10 or more electors of the jurisdiction.
The mayor of a municipality or the chair of a regional district board are participating members of the council or board and as such they vote and make motions at meetings. They are typically the presiding member at meetings, which means that they are responsible for maintaining order and the conduct of debate. The presiding member may expel a person from a meeting for acting improperly.
Municipal councils are required to appoint an acting mayor or a schedule of acting mayors to serve when the mayor is absent or otherwise unable to act. Similarly, regional district boards are required to appoint a vice-chair to serve when the chair is absent or ill. If both the mayor and acting mayor cannot preside at a meeting, the council members present must select another member to preside. Similarly, if both the regional district chair and vice-chair are unable to preside at a meeting, the directors present may choose an acting chair for that meeting.
Voting is an essential part of each municipal council or regional district board members' participation at meetings.
Each member present at a meeting must vote on the matter being decided. If a council or board member does not indicate how they vote, they are deemed to have voted in the affirmative. In other words, they cannot abstain from voting, unless they may not participate because of a conflict of interest and have followed the procedure for dealing with various types of prohibited conflicts of interest under the Community Charter.
In most cases, votes at a council or regional board meeting are decided by a simple majority of the members present at the meeting. However, there are a few circumstances where a two-thirds majority of all council members is required—for example, when providing assistance to business (other than tax exemptions) for the conservation of heritage properties and when terminating a municipal officer without cause. Regional districts have additional rules regarding weighted stakeholder votes and weighted corporate votes.
Municipal councils and regional district boards must establish procedures for the conduct of their meetings and for the general conduct of their business. These procedures are contained in a procedure bylaw.
While each local government has the flexibility to adopt meeting procedures to suit their circumstances, there are certain procedures that must be addressed in their procedure bylaw. For example, local governments must set rules for how resolutions are passed and bylaws adopted. While generally similar, there are some differences between municipal and regional district procedure bylaws. For example, a municipal procedure bylaw is where council determines the date of the first regular council meeting following a general local election.
Addressing the council or Board
Municipal council and regional district board meetings must be open to the public, except in clearly defined circumstances. Such meetings generally allot time on their agenda for members of the public to address the council or board members directly. It is up to each local government to decide whether that opportunity is offered and what form it takes. Check with your local government about the procedures that the council or board in your area has established.