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Municipal Incorporation


There are many areas of the province where people have settled into communities. Often the residents want services that will make the community more attractive to live in such as a water distribution system, fire protection, recreation facilities and control over land use development. Where there is local support, some of these communities have been incorporated by the province as municipalities which means that they have a corporate public body authorized to represent the community which makes decisions through an elected mayor and council.

A community is incorporated by the province as a municipality when Cabinet approves a legal document called Letters Patent. The Letters Patent establish the municipality's name and boundary, provide for the first election of the mayor and council, and contain a number of transitional issues.

It is not necessary for a municipality to incorporate just because the residents want local services. In the absence of a municipality, services can by provided by regional districts and improvement districts. In addition, communities on the Gulf Islands are provided local planning services by the Islands Trust. All rural residents in an electoral area are generally represented by one regional district director. Communities located in the Islands Trust area are represented by two local trustees. Improvement districts have an elected board of trustees.

If a community incorporates, the municipality becomes a member of the regional district and is represented on the regional board by one or more members appointed by and from that municipality's council.

Municipalities are divided into four classifications: village; town; district; and city. The distinction is based upon population and area but regardless of the classification, every municipality generally has the same powers and responsibilities.

Communities can also be incorporated into the following types of municipalities:

  • A mountain resort municipality if they are located within a designated mountain resort area such as the Resort Municipality of Whistler;
  • A resource municipality in conjunction with the development of a natural resource such as the District of Tumbler Ridge; and
  • A community located on one of the Gulf Islands located in the Islands Trust area must be incorporated as an island municipality such as the Bowen Island Municipality.

These municipalities have the powers and responsibilities of other municipalities but with slight variations.

Additional local representation, the desire for more services and a strong community vision are often issues that motivate residents to consider incorporating as a municipality.

Municipal incorporation is guided by the following principles:

  • The process for examining incorporation should be locally initiated and focused;
  • The decision to incorporate as a municipality must be made by the electorate through a referendum;
  • The vote should be made by an informed electorate; and
  • All sectors of the community need to be involved in the discussion.

The Local Government Structure Branch has a facilitative role in the incorporation process by:

  • Providing advice on the impact of structure changes to local governments, communities, and individuals;
  • Facilitating the decision-making process and discussions between various stakeholders in the incorporation process;
  • Administering provincial financial assistance to communities seeking structure and governance changes that is available under the Local Government Grants Regulation; and
  • Preparing Letters Patent for consideration by Cabinet.

There are three components to provincial financial assistance:


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