Alternative Approval Process
Local governments can use the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) under Part 4, Division 2 of the Community Charter as a method to directly engage citizens about a proposed bylaw or other matter requiring elector approval.
While the AAP is often used by local governments in relation to long-term borrowing bylaws, the Community Charter identifies 13 circumstances where the elector approval may be obtained by AAP. In each case, municipal councils and regional district boards also have the option of holding an assent vote (formerly known as other voting or a referendum) instead of an AAP.
AAPs can be used for:
Local governments must publish a notice of an AAP once each week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper distributed in the area defined for the AAP. The notice must also be published in keeping with the provisions for posting public notices set out in the local government’s procedure bylaw.
The advertised notices must include:
Eligible electors have at least 30 days from the publication of the second notice to submit elector response forms to the local government corporate officer before the AAP deadline. Forms received after the deadline has passed cannot be counted.
It is the responsibility of local governments to create the elector response form; the forms can either be a single-response format that can be signed by an individual elector, or a longer petition-style form that can be signed by multiple electors. Resident 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 defined for the AAP.
Although an elector response form is not considered the same as the ballot used in a general local election, by-election or in assent voting; local government corporate officers have a duty to keep the forms secure during the AAP. Local governments must also ensure the elector response forms and the personal information they contain adhere to the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
After the AAP deadline has passed, the local government corporate officer must determine and certify whether the valid elector response forms submitted met or exceeded the 10% threshold established for the AAP. This determination is final and conclusive. When 10% or more of the eligible electors sign and submit response forms, local governments cannot proceed with the proposed matter without first holding an assent vote.
AAP vs Assent Vote
Councils and regional district boards must weigh the various considerations associated with a given project or proposal and determine whether or not an AAP is the best process for obtaining elector approval.
If an issue is controversial, requires a significant contribution of taxpayers’ dollars, or is significant in scale or impact on the community, local governments may decide to proceed straight to an assent vote.
Council and regional district board decisions about when to hold an AAP can be influenced by a number of factors – including the time of year (holiday seasons), an upcoming by-election or general local election or if the local government is facing seasonal construction or borrowing deadlines.
Planning for an AAP
Local governments must plan and prepare for a number of factors (e.g. information-sharing, general timing, determining the number of eligible electors, notices and type of response forms to use) and make certain decisions in order to successfully administer an AAP. All of the elements are best considered collectively to identify the implications or impacts one may have on another, rather than working through each element or decision in isolation.
The Ministry has developed the Alternative Approval Process: A Guide for Local Governments in B.C. (PDF, 700KB) as a resource for local government staff and elected officials when making decisions related to, or administering, an AAP. The information contained in the guide may also be of interest to others who wish to better understand the process and the factors local governments consider when they choose to undertake an AAP.