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Governance &
Structure Division
 

Delegation

 

Section 154(1) of the Community Charter authorizes a municipal council to delegate its powers, duties and functions to a council member, a council committee, an officer or employee, or to another body established by council (the "delegated body").
 

Note: council may not delegate to a corporation.
 

This broad authority is balanced with accountability to the public by including specific limitations on delegation and, in certain cases, reconsideration mechanisms.
 

The Community Charter provides specific limitations on the delegation of power, including mandating certain decision-making authority that cannot be delegated (s. 154(2)):

  • the making of a bylaw;
  • a power or duty that is only exercisable by bylaw;
  • a power or duty established by the Community Charter or any other Act that the council give its approval or consent to, make recommendations on, or accept an action, decision or other matter (e.g., municipal council consent to participate in a regional district service; approval of liquor licenses);
  • a power or duty established by an enactment (e.g., by statute; by bylaw) that the council hear an appeal or reconsider an action, decision or other matter;
  • a power or duty to appoint or suspend an officer except where council has delegated that authority to the chief administrative officer;
  • a power or duty to terminate an officer; and
  • a power to impose a remedial action requirement under Division 12, Part 3 (Remedial Action Requirements).

As well, there are specific limitations on delegation contained in the Local Government Act. For example, a council cannot delegate the authority to issue a development variance permit (LGA s. 922(8)).
 

The Community Charter specifies a set of procedural rules regarding delegation:

  • Delegation must occur by bylaw with a simple majority of votes cast;
  • A delegation bylaw can be rescinded by a simple majority vote;
  • Council can delegate a responsibility to hold a required hearing or representation proceeding (e.g., public hearing for a rezoning) through a bylaw or resolution) with a simple majority of the votes cast;
  • Once delegation has been made, the council cannot overturn the decision of the delegated body. However, council may establish the right to have decisions by a delegate reconsidered by council (s. 156);
  • Municipalities must develop procedures for reconsideration where this right is established in the Community Charter, the Local Government Act, or another statute or bylaw. Reconsideration rights under the Local Government Act include the following: decisions on tree cutting; cancellation or suspension of a business license; issuance of development permits; issuance of temporary commercial or industrial use permits; and issuance of heritage alteration permits;

Delegation by regional district boards continues to be governed by the Local Government Act. The key difference with municipalities is that delegation can only be made with the consent of 2/3 of the votes cast by the board. Regional districts interested in delegation best practices should refer to A Guide to Regional District Board Delegation to Boards and Commissions (115 KB) .
 

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When to consider

Councils have the opportunity to delegate responsibilities to members, council committees, officers and staff and other bodies created by council. This can provide benefits for council. It allows detailed consideration of operation or administration of a service or function to be the responsibility of the delegated body. This enables more focussed and detailed consideration by the delegated body. At the same time, it allows council to focus on the broader and longer term needs of the municipality (e.g., the overall policy in relation to services). Council can now focus and streamline its agenda, committees can be reinvigorated and staff can be empowered and assigned more routine responsibilities of councils.
 

What to consider

Broad delegation authority provides a challenge for municipal councils to develop effective delegation bylaws which establish clear lines of accountability and communication between council and the delegated body. Some key questions for councils to consider follow.
 

To whom does council want to delegate?
Council has broad authority to delegate to council members, council committees, officers and employees and other bodies created by council. The latter could include ad hoc committees, commissions and advisory bodies created by council. Council will want to consider what decisions should be delegated and to whom. Some questions that council will want to consider are the following:

  • What are the benefits of delegating this issue to this person or body?
  • What are the possible risks of delegating to this person or body?
  • How would the public perceive the proposed delegation?

What type of matters does council want to delegate?
Some areas where council might consider delegating responsibility are the following:

  • Operational decisions: day to day decisions with respect to operation of a service (e.g., parks or recreation facilities);
  • Operational policies: establishing policies and procedures to guide the operation of a service (e.g. the operation of an arena);
  • Contracting: entering into contracts within constraints established by council; and
  • Expenditures: making expenditures within constraints established by council.

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What rules must delegates follow?
Councils will need to consider the terms and conditions to be included in a bylaw delegating decision-making authority. Some of the key areas where council may want to focus are the following:

  • Budgets: the requirement to work within the budget assigned each year
  • Financial management policies: the applicability of adopted financial management policies:
    • procedures for tendering/purchasing (e.g., all contracts over $5,000 must be put to tender); and
    • limits on spending authority (e.g., the chief financial officer can spend up to $50, 000 without council authorization).
  • Communications: reporting responsibilities from the delegated body to council and vice versa. Specifically, does the delegation bylaw provide for:
  • all relevant information necessary for making an informed decision to be received by the delegated body; and
  • regular reporting from the delegated body to council.

Will there be a right to reconsideration?
Section 156 provides council with the power to establish by bylaw the right to have decisions of a delegated body reconsidered by council. Council will need to consider carefully whether and where it wishes to provide this right. If council reconsiders too many decisions, it will defeat the purpose of delegation, which is empowerment of the delegate and freeing up council to focus on broader, strategic issues. On the other hand, if the delegated body is making important decisions which impact on individuals or property rights, then fairness and political accountability may require an opportunity for reconsideration.
 

If council chooses to exercise this right, or if the Community Charter, or other legislation or a bylaw establishes a right of reconsideration, then council must by bylaw establish procedures for reconsideration, including how a person may apply for reconsideration. If there is a right to reconsideration, the person making the decision must advise the person subject to the decision of the right of reconsideration. The goal is to ensure that the person receives clear information in a timely manner, so that they can decide if and when to exercise their right.
 

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How will the exercise of delegated authority be monitored? How will council know if it is working or not working?
Council will want to establish objectives for the delegation. Possible objectives include: increasing efficiency of service delivery; greater responsiveness to the clients of the service; and improved functioning of council business.
 

The delegation bylaw can lay out expectations for the delegated body and provide for regular review, to see if the objectives and expectations are being met. If they are not being met, council will need to determine the nature of the problem and determine its response, for example:

  • Is there a need for greater restrictions on the delegated body's authority?
  • Has the power been delegated to the wrong body?
  • Are the procedures to be followed by the delegated body clear?
  • Is this a type of power that really does not lend itself to delegation and so once again should be exercised by council?

Please direct questions or comments to Advisory Services Branch.
 

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