Highlights of the Community CharterThe Community Charter (Bill 14, 2003), is the first local government legislation in Canada to establish a full set of principles for municipal-provincial relations.
PrinciplesPart 1 of the Community Charter includes principles of municipal governance and principles of municipal-provincial relations.
Under these principles, the province formally recognizes
municipalities and their councils as an order of government within
their jurisdiction and the requirements of municipalities, including
the need for adequate powers and authority.
Principles of municipal-provincial relations recognize that citizens
of British Columbia are best served when there is mutual respect
between municipalities and the provincial government and when each
works cooperatively with the other on matters of mutual interest.
Municipal-Provincial RelationsPart 9of the Community Charter provides specific provisions related to governmental relations. The Community Charter requires provincial consultation prior to changes to a number of acts and regulations that are particularly relevant to municipalities, and also provides for consultation agreements between the provincial government and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities on any matter of mutual interest.
Part 9 also provides a resolution process for disputes between a
municipality and another local government or the provincial
government or its corporations. This process is largely dependent
on non-binding dispute resolution processes, but binding arbitration
is available where all parties to the dispute wish to use that
method. Mandatory binding arbitration is also used to replace a
provincial decision for disputes related to intermunicipal highways,
bridges and watercourses.
See Dispute Resolution
for more information.
Broad powersPart 2 of the Community Charter provides for fundamental municipal powers including natural person powers, the power to provide any service that the council considers necessary or desirable and the power to regulate and in some cases prohibit and/or impose requirements in relation to a number of broad areas or "spheres". Areas in which municipalities have autonomy to regulate, prohibit and impose requirements are:
Municipalities are also provided with powers to regulate businesses;
to regulate and impose requirements for certain matters related to
signs and other advertising devices; and to regulate and prohibit in
relation to the discharge of firearms.
The Community Charter recognizes that in some areas there are
significant local and provincial interests. The legislation
provides for concurrent authority, where municipalities may exercise
the power if the municipal bylaw is in accordance with a provincial
regulation or an agreement between the municipality and the
province, or the bylaw has been approved by the province.
In recognizing both a local and provincial interest in these matters, the Community Charter ensures that municipalities have the authority they need to deal with the local interest while maintaining some coordination with the provincial government to ensure that matters of provincial interest are not compromised. Areas of concurrent authority are:
Authority for more information.
Part 2 of the Community Charter augments fundamental municipal powers with a number of other general powers. These include the authority to:
In addition, in Part 3 a number of specific powers outside of the fundamental powers are provided. Significant items in this category include:
As with any other statutory provision, the powers provided for in the
Community Charter must be considered in the context of all
other provincial and federal law. Additionally, Part 3 of the
Community Charter provides some specific restrictions in
relation to the powers provided. These restrictions generally
take the form of limitations on the power or process requirements in
relation to exercising the power.
For example, as a limitation on the natural person powers, there is
a general prohibition against providing assistance to business
unless it meets stated criteria.
Examples of a restriction on process include:
AccountabilityPart 4 of the Community Charter contains a number of public participation provisions. The Community Charter provides for an alternative approval process where electors may request that certain proposed municipal decisions be put to a vote prior to action by council. This process applies to a limited number of decisions, primarily those relating to long-term financial commitments. If at least 10 per cent of electors in the area affected request a vote, a municipality must hold a vote if it intends to proceed with the matter.
Most council and council committee meetings will continue to be open to
the public. The Community Charter provides for the discussion
of a number of matters in closed meetings. Included is authority to close a
meeting for discussions relating to administrative tribunals, preparing annual
municipal reports and preliminary negotiations respecting proposed municipal services.
See Open Meetings
for more information.
The Community Charter provides for public access to the minutes of
open meetings, along with a number of other municipal records, but
at the heart of the accountability framework are provisions for
an annual municipal report and a public meeting to present this report.
The annual report provides financial and operational information
related to the municipality. In addition to such standard
financial information as audited financial statements and disclosure
of the value of permissive tax exemptions, the municipality must
report on its services and operations and the progress made during
the year in relation to previously set objectives.
The report is also forward looking in that it sets out future year
objectives and the measures that will be used in determining
progress towards those objectives. Citizens have the opportunity to
provide submissions and ask questions of council during a council or
other public meeting in which council considers the annual report.
The accountability framework under the Community Charter is rounded out by ethical conduct provisions for elected officials. The Community Charter sets out restrictions on:
Exceptions to this last restriction of accepting gifts include
authorized compensation, campaign contributions and gifts that are
received incidental to the protocol or social obligations that
normally accompany the responsibilities of office. Any such
latter benefits worth more than $250 must be disclosed.
The Community Charter also requires dislosure of contracts
between a council member or recent former member and the municipality.
See Ethical Conduct
for more information.
Please direct questions or comments to
Advisory Services Branch