Local Government Act
Bulletin No.: G.4.0.0Date: October 2000
Public Hearing Procedures
This new provision, which takes effect January 1, 2001, reflects the Municipal Act
Reform principles of flexibility, local government
accountability, and legislative clarity and simplicity.
- Section 890(3.1), clarifies that the chair of a public hearing may establish
procedural rules for the conduct of the hearing.
- This provision relates to
the formal public hearings that are required to be held prior to
third reading of official community plan (OCP) bylaws, zoning
bylaws, heritage designation bylaws, and heritage revitalization
agreement bylaws which would change the use, or density of use, of
- The ability of the chair
to establish procedural rules for public hearings exists within the
context of the Act's requirement that: "At the public hearing
all persons who believe that their interest in property is affected
by the proposed bylaw must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to
be heard or to present written submissions ... ." (section 890(3).
The chair's flexibility is limited by the considerable amount of
common law surrounding public hearings and "due process".
- Other provisions related
to the holding of public hearings are found in sections 890-894.
- The Local Government
Act requires public hearings for the types of bylaws which have
the greatest potential to affect how people can use their property,
and therefore, which could have the greatest affect on the market
values of the subject properties and nearby properties. The
assurance of a public hearing, together with the related public
notice and information requirements, and the requirement that
deliberations must take place in open session, are among the most
important "due process" protections associated with these regulatory
- There have been a number
of court cases which establish "common law" requirements and
restrictions which stem from the principles of procedural fairness
and due process. These apply in addition to the statutory
requirements in the Local Government Act.
- Separate from the legal
requirements, appropriate procedural rules are needed to ensure that
the council or board gets sufficient information to make appropriate
decisions about proposed bylaws, and to enable the public to see
that the local government acknowledges and respects their right to
participate in the local decision making process.
- To help ensure that its
public hearings conform both to principles of good practice and to
all legal requirements, local governments may wish to ensure chairs
of public hearings are aware of the constraints on their power.
While the authority to make the rules rests with the chair of the
hearing, it is the local government that bears the risk of a
challenge to the bylaw that is subject to the hearing, so it is in
the local government's best interest to ensure that public hearings
are conducted appropriately. For this reason, local governments may
wish to develop and present advice to chairs in a relatively formal
way, after discussing the matter with their legal advisors.
- Advice to chairs can be
given in a number of ways, including the development or endorsement
of a suggested set of standard polies or rules. Procedural policies,
rules or other advice to chairs could cover such items as
determining speaker lists, reasonable time limits (if any), whether
questions can be asked of proponents or planning staff, and rebuttal
- The chair of a public
hearing should indicate what procedural rules will apply at the
beginning of every public hearing and should take care not to alter
these rules during the hearing. Any controversies about the subject
matter of the bylaw are likely to be exacerbated by any perceptions
that the rules are being made up or changed as the hearing
progresses, and an appearance of arbitrariness or unfairness by the
chair could lead to a legal challenge.
- In the case of OCP
bylaws, in addition to the requirement for a public hearing, public
consultation is now required during the development of the OCP (see
- OCP Process and Consultation). The authority to set procedural
rules for public hearings does not extend to this new public
consultation requirement, because the role of that consultation is
very different than that of the formal public hearing, and the
format for the public consultation can be much more informal.
There are no transitional provisions related to this amendment.
Local Government Act References:
Primary Sections: s. 890(3.1)
Bill 14 Sections: s. 890-894, 966(8), 968(2), 879
Return to Planning Bulletins main page