In order for local government to operate efficiently, they must
be able to exercise certain fundamental powers. In British Columbia,
local government powers are broadly stated in provincial legislation
and are similar for both municipalities and regional districts
although they are expressed differently.
The corporate powers for municipalities are stated in
Section 8 of the Community Charter as being natural person
powers. That is, they have the same rights, powers and privileges of a natural person of
full capacity. For example, they can enter into agreements, buy and
dispose of property, sue or be sued, hire employees, provide
assistance and borrow money. For regional districts, their corporate
powers are listed more explicitly in Section 176 of the Local
While the local government corporate powers are quite broad, there
are some limitations and requirements in relation to these powers.
For example, while a local government can sell a parcel of land that
it owns, it must first publish notice of its intentions. In
addition, while local governments can borrow money, if the term is
longer than five years the local governments may have to seek the
approval of their electors and will need to obtain the approval of
the Inspector of Municipalities.
Agreements are used by local governments for many purposes. For example: a company can be contracted to provide garbage collection; photocopiers and other equipment can be leased; statutory right of ways can be obtained for sewer lines located on private land; and employment contracts with staff can be signed.
One specific type of agreement is called a partnering agreement, which is an agreement between a local government and external entity (usually a public authority, business, society or person), whereby the external entity agrees to provide a municipal service on behalf of the local government.
Assistance is a grant, benefit, advantage or other form of assistance, including an exemption from a tax, fee or charge. There are a variety of reasons why a local government would provide assistance to an organization. For example, they might provide grants to theatre groups, galleries, or symphonies to encourage a vibrant arts community. They might also provide a tax exemption to an organization that provides social relief to citizens in need. However, they cannot provide assistance to a business unless it is under a partnering agreement.