Alternative Approval Process
Local governments can use the Alternative Approval Process under
Part 4, Division 2 of the
Community Charter as a method to gauge public opinion in regard to certain types of proposed
bylaws, agreements, or other matters. It is most commonly used in relation to long-term
borrowing bylaws. It is a less expensive option than using a referendum to gauge public
opinion. It can be used whenever the legislation requires a local government to obtain
the approval of the electors.
What is RequiredA local government must publish a notice in a newspaper outlining the purposes of a proposed bylaw, agreement, or other matter where the approval of the electors is required. After the second of two notices is advertised, electors have 30 days in which to advise their local government that in their opinion, the matter is of such significance that a referendum should be held. If more than 10% of the electors hold this opinion, then the local government cannot proceed with the proposed bylaw, agreement, or other matter without holding a referendum.
The method by which the electors express their opinion is by signing an Elector Response
Form and submitting it to their local government within 30 days of the second notice. It is the
responsibility for the local government to create the elector response form which can be
designed to allow either a single elector or multiple electors to sign it.
Electors signing the form must provide their full name and residential address. Non-resident
property electors must also provide the address of the property that they own within the area.
The notice that is advertised must include:
At the end of the 30 days, the local government corporate officer must determine and certify
whether enough elector response forms had been submitted to exceed the 10% threshold. This
determination is final and conclusive. If the threshold was exceeded, the municipal council
or regional district board will need to consider whether they still want to proceed with the
proposal and if so, they must first hold a referendum.
What to ConsiderIf an issue is controversial or requires a significant contribution of taxpayers’ dollars, the number of elector response forms submitted to the local government will likely exceed the 10% threshold. Therefore, it may be timelier for local governments to proceed straight to a referendum rather than delay the matter by holding an alternative approval process first.
Not all local governments maintain a list of electors. As such, some local governments may
have a more difficult time estimating the total number of their electors. However, local
governments are required to make available to the public, on request, a report respecting
the basis on which their determination was made.
Some electors favour the alternative approval process over a referendum because they
have more time (30 days) to express their opinion instead of the two days (advance poll
and voting day) that are available to vote in a referendum. However, some electors may
be critical of the alternative approval process because in larger communities, it may
be difficult to obtain elector response forms from 10% of the electors.
Local governments may want to consider making elector response forms available at locations
such as libraries or recreation centres in addition to their offices. They may also want to
consider arranging a public consultation process about the bylaw, agreement, or other matter
that is the subject of the alternative approval process.