Municipal incorporation and classification

Unincorporated communities in electoral areas wanting to increase local representation and coordinate or enhance delivery of local government services may consider incorporating as a municipality.

Candidacy for incorporation

Each community has a unique history, geography, economy, and demographic profile. While there is no one-size-fits-all "checklist" for incorporation, factors to consider for a sustainable and fiscally viable municipality include:

  • Community population and growth trends
  • Proximity to neighbouring municipalities
  • Road networks
  • Diversity of the property tax base (including a mix of residential, business and industry)
  • Existing local services
  • Community involvement
  • Nature of the local economy and its prospects into the future

Considerations prior to incorporation:

  • Are other governance options available? The Local Government Act provides regional districts with flexible governance and service delivery options for the unique needs of rural communities. For many of these communities, exploring issues and options within the regional district/electoral area framework may be more timely and less expensive to implement.
  • Has the community voted against municipal incorporation in the past? If so, the provincial government will want to know what has changed to warrant revisiting the issue.
  • Are the community’s issues related to the role of municipal government? While municipalities have a broad range of responsibilities, they do not deal with schools, public health, social services, income tax or areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as resource extraction and environmental management.

If the community is part of an existing municipality, incorporation is not an option.

Incorporation process

As the general local government for rural communities, regional districts sponsor the process to study the implications of incorporation. There must be agreement between the elected local representative(s) and the regional district to undertake this process.

In almost all other regards, municipalities operate under a common framework provided by the Community Charter the Local Government Act, with specific variations covered in letters Patent incorporating each municipality.

Regional district representation

A new municipality continues to be part of a regional district, and is represented on the regional board by one or more members appointed by and from that municipality's council.


Municipalities are classified as villages, towns, districts or cities, which is typically reflected in the municipal name. The distinction between the four classifications is based on population and area, and every municipality generally has the same powers and responsibilities.

In certain circumstances, communities can also be incorporated under provisions that may afford them additional powers and responsibilities. These types of specialized municipality may have those circumstances reflected in the municipal name rather than the municipal classification.

  • A mountain resort municipality (such as Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality) may be created where year-round facilities and resort accommodation are in place and permits greater control over form and character of development and the ability to levy development cost charges to subsidize resort employee housing.
  • A resource municipality (such as the District of Tumbler Ridge) may be incorporated in conjunction with the development of a natural resource before the arrival of a sufficient population to hold an incorporation vote.
  • An island municipality (such as Bowen Island Municipality) is located on one of the Gulf Islands in the Islands Trust and continues to be a member of that organization and be bound in its land use policies by the Trust Policy Statement (rather than a regional district growth strategy)