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Governance &
Structure Division

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 Required

A 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:

  • A general description of the bylaw, agreement, or other matter;
  • A statement that the local government may proceed unless more than 10% of the electors sign an elector response form;
  • A description of the area to which the alternative approval process applies;
  • The deadline by which elector response forms must be submitted;
  • An estimate of the number of electors in the area to which the alternative approval process applies that would constitute 10% of the total electors; and
  • A statement that: elector response must be given in the form established by the local government; the forms are available at the local government offices; and the only persons entitled to sign the forms are the electors of the area to which the alternative approval process applies.

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 Consider

If 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.

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