Municipal council organization
Each municipal council in B.C. consists of a mayor and councillors, collectively called council members.
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A municipal council is the governing body of a municipality. It has the authority to make decisions and act for the municipal corporation (the municipality), consistent with the purposes of a municipality and its authority and requirements under legislation, bylaws and policies. The purposes of a municipality include:
- Providing for good government of its community
- Providing for services, laws and other matters for community benefit
- Providing for stewardship of the public assets of its community
- Fostering the economic, social and environmental well-being of its community
A municipal council makes decisions collectively, meaning that it is not individual council members but rather the council as a whole, based on a majority vote, that decides and acts for the municipality.
Municipal councils are supported by municipal staff (officers and employees), often referred to as the municipal administration. While council sets the policy direction for a municipality, the municipal administration implements that direction.
The number of municipal council members varies from five to 11 and generally determined by the population of the municipality.
The number of council members may be established in letters patent (the constituting legal documents of a municipality) or in a municipal bylaw. If neither apply, the number is established by legislation as follows, a:
- City or district with a population of more than 50,000 must have a mayor and eight councillors
- City or district with a population of 50,000 or less must have a mayor and six councillors
- Town or village must have a mayor and four councillors
If a council wishes to change the number of council members, it must pass a bylaw to establish the number of council members as a mayor and four, six, eight or ten councillors. Council must receive the assent of the electors if it wishes to reduce the number of council members, or if it wishes to maintain the number of council members despite an increase in population that would otherwise lead to an increase in council size.
A bylaw to establish the number of council members must be made at least six months before the next general local elections, and becomes effective for those general local elections.
Council may only discuss and vote on matters if there is a quorum of council at a meeting. A quorum is a majority of the number of council members provided for by law.
All members of a municipal council are elected and serve a four-year term. The term of office is set by legislation and begins on the date of the first council meeting that follows the general local elections and ends immediately before the first council meeting that follows the next general local elections. Both of these meeting dates must be set out in the municipal procedure bylaw.
In some cases, the mayor or council may establish a committee or commission to undertake specific work on council's behalf. Council may delegate some of its authority to the committee or commission, though this power has some restrictions. Council may also delegate some authority to municipal officers and employees.