of the Community Charter provides for joint regulation by two
or more municipalities that want to use the same set of regulations and
possibly enforcement mechanisms. This may interest municipalities in
close proximity to each other for the following reasons:
- to provide a more consistent and predictable
business friendly regulatory environment;
- to ensure the regulatory system is efficient,
effective and less costly;
- to assure citizens that regulations are
meeting community objectives.
Inter-municipal regulation can be used for
joint action on any matter for which municipalities have authority,
- a common regulation for business;
- joint enforcement using a common ticketing
- sharing bylaw enforcement officers across
Inter-municipal regulation may focus on one
particular activity (e.g., business operations), or may include
regulations on a combination of activities (e.g., business
operations and water conservation).
Note: The Ministry, in partnership with the UBCM and the business
community, has developed the
Regulatory Best Practices Guide.
When to consider
In many parts of the province, municipalities
exist in tight clusters, either directly adjacent, or in close
proximity, to one another. Within these clusters municipalities,
citizens and businesses often see themselves as sharing a common
community, or a common market, with shared interests and goals. The
ability of municipalities to achieve shared goals is enhanced when
there is a high degree of regulatory consistency among the various
jurisdictions. When such consistency is lacking, the differences in
regulations may undermine the municipalities’ objectives, and
Consider some examples.
- Air Quality: Two adjacent municipalities
agree that air quality is an important issue that transcends
municipal boundaries. However, the absence of, or different,
backyard burning restrictions may limit the effectiveness of
individual efforts to protect air quality. One municipality’s
efforts are futile if neighbouring jurisdictions do not follow
- Economic Development Promotion. Two
municipalities, twenty kilometres apart, recognize that
prospective businesses, residents and tourists will be attracted
by the area's broader aesthetic appeal, more than by the specific
qualities of the individual communities. The lack of a common
approach to matters such as signage, landscaping and regulating
unsightly premises could result in an inconsistent image that
diminishes the region's economic potential.
- Business Friendly Regulation. Municipalities
and businesses in a regional district recognize that separate
business licensing in each municipality is frustrating businesses
and increasing costs. They agree to an Inter-Municipal Business
Licence Agreement and develop a common business licence, flat
licence fee and licensing procedures which enable businesses to
operate simultaneously in all municipalities.
The pursuit of shared goals may provide the
impetus for most inter-municipal regulation. It may also be
prompted by a desire to deal with the unintended, cross-boundary
impacts of one jurisdiction's regulatory actions.
Consider an example.
- Regulations introduced by one municipality to
restrict the operations of a certain class of business (e.g.,
"adult" businesses) may result in the relocation of these
businesses to a neighbouring municipality where fewer rules are in
effect. To address this unintended impact, the two municipalities
may agree to adopt a common set of regulations.
What to consider
- Is inter-municipal regulation the right tool
to deal with the issue?
- Can the issue be dealt with through the
- Are there other options to deal with the
issue? (i.e. non-regulatory)
- What is the appropriate scope of the
- Should the regulation focus on one specific
matter, or is there a range of activities and issues that should
- Is this proposed regulatory activity within
the scope of municipal powers?
- Is this a concurrent regulatory authority?
- Have all of the process requirements been
Municipalities may wish to adopt a modest
approach that focuses on one issue that is clearly of common
concern. The participants can always agree at a later stage to
expand their cooperation to address other matters.
- Which set of regulations should apply?
- Do the participants agree that one
municipality's existing bylaw is best suited to achieving the
shared goal(s), or to addressing the unintended cross-boundary
impacts of one municipality's actions?
- Do changes need to be made to the bylaw
before giving it wide application?
- Should the shared bylaw completely replace
existing local regulations, or can the two coexist?
- Can the chosen regulations be applied
throughout the whole of each participating municipality, or do
parts of a given municipality need to be removed from the
- What rules need to be in place to govern
amendments to the regulations?
Governance, Administration and Enforcement
- Who provides policy direction and oversight
for the inter-municipal regulation?
- Should the councils establish a commission or
committee to oversee the function?
- How will the regulations be administered?
- How will regulations be enforced?
- Will each municipality be responsible for
administration and enforcement within its own boundaries?
- Should authority for administration and
enforcement be delegated by each council to one participant?
- Who decides administration and enforcement
- Should administration and enforcement be
handled by a joint governance body like a commission?
- Are there liability concerns with having one
municipality exercise its authority in another municipality?
Certain participants may not have the resources
to administer and enforce the regulations. In this case, it may be
advantageous to delegate these functions to one jurisdiction. In
situations where resources are widely available, delegating these
functions to one municipality may result in the most consistent
application of the regulations, and, as such, may be preferred. In
other cases, a decentralized or shared administrative model may be best.
Cost and Revenue
- What will it cost a municipality to establish
an inter-municipal regulation?
- What will it cost, on an ongoing basis, for
the municipality to participate?
- Who will be responsible for distributing
revenues to participating municipalities?
- On what basis will common development and
operating costs be shared by the participants?
The allocation of common costs may depend on
each municipality's willingness to pay, which, in turn, may depend
on the municipality's anticipated benefit from participating. A
municipality that expects to receive a significant benefit may be
willing to pay a larger share of the costs than other participants.
Where benefits are evenly spread, common costs may be best allocated
on the basis of converted assessment, population or some other
- Should the parties arrange for regular,
formal reviews of the arrangement, or less formal reviews on an
- Regular, formal reviews may encourage
participants to assess the health of the arrangement and deal with
small concerns before they become more serious.
- What should be the requirements for
withdrawal by any one participant?
- Should withdrawal be a simple or an onerous
- Should there be formal dispute resolution
- Should the process be tailored to the
municipalities or is the process provided for in the Community
How to proceed
Municipalities interested in inter-municipal
regulation may consider adopting an approach that includes several steps.
Identify opportunity or need
The following subjects relate to issues that are important to
neighbouring municipalities and may provide the opportunity to
establish an inter-municipal regulation. This list is not
- business operations;
- illegal dumping;
- waste reduction;
- animal control;
- noise and nuisance control;
- unsightly premises;
- fire prevention;
- quality of rental housing;
- signage and air quality.
The opportunity or need could be identified by
any number of sources in a municipality, including staff, a member
of council, a citizens' group, business organizations, an individual
citizen or the media. Alternatively, an opportunity or need could
be identified by another municipality or group of municipalities.
At the idea stage, consideration could be given
to alternatives to inter-municipal regulation. For some issues,
regional district regulation may be more appropriate.
Exploration of Interests
The scope of the inter-municipal regulation will need to be
consistent with the scope of municipal legislative authority. If
the issue under consideration for inter-municipal regulation is in
an area of concurrent regulatory authority, careful attention should
be given to the process requirements associated with that particular
The answers to the following questions will
help determine if there are common interests which can provide a
basis for joint regulation.
- What is the municipality's interest in the
issue, or issues, that are being considered for inclusion in an
- What are the interests of the other
municipalities that may participate in the scheme?
If prospective participants share common
objectives, this provides a basis to discuss how to structure the
inter-municipal regulation. In addition, the interests of those who
would be impacted by the inter-municipal regulation need to be
considered. This may include business groups, community and
Structure of the Function
Every inter-municipal regulation will involve the application of
a common set of rules across the participating jurisdictions. The
exact structure will vary based on local circumstances, needs and
In determining the most appropriate structure,
participants need to consider some important issues. The first six
apply to any inter-municipal regulation. The last three are unique
to an inter-jurisdictional regulation.
- scope of the joint regulation;
- rules that will apply;
- administration of permit and licensing;
- enforcement of the regulation;
- establishing and operating costs;
- process for reviewing;
- withdrawal of participants; and
- dispute resolution.
It is important that the participating municipalities have an
agreement or memorandum of understanding which codifies the
expectations of the parties. This sets the stage for developing an
implementation plan. The plan should include a provision that
each municipality pass a bylaw that outlines the key structural
characteristics of the inter-municipal regulation (see Community
Please direct questions or comments to
Advisory Services Branch.