The local government system in British Columbia is unique in Canada because, in
addition to the 162 municipal governments, it is comprised of 27
The boundaries of the regional
districts are large and span nearly the entire geographic area of the province.
Each regional district is divided into smaller areas called electoral areas.
Regional districts are modeled as a federation composed of municipalities and electoral areas, each of
which has representation on the regional board.
The governance of regional districts is managed by a board of directors composed of appointees from municipalities and a director elected from each electoral area.
The municipal directors serve on the regional board until council decides to change the appointment.
The directors from the electoral areas serve for a four-year term.
Regional districts have three basic roles.
They provide a political and administrative framework for:
- providing region-wide services such as regional parks and emergency telephone services such as 9-1-1;
- providing inter-municipal or sub-regional services such as recreation facilities where residents of a municipality and residents in areas outside the municipality benefit from the service; and,
- acting as the general local government for the electoral areas and providing local services such as waterworks and fire protection to unincorporated communities within the electoral areas.
Revenue used to finance regional district operations and services is generated through property taxes, fees
and other charges.
Unlike municipalities, regional districts are required to match the benefits and costs of its services to the people that benefit from the services.
In other words, residents pay for the services they receive.
Regional districts were incorporated in the mid 1960’s by the province through the issuance of legal documents called Letters Patent.
Each Letters Patent contains the name of the regional district, describes its boundary and the boundary of its electoral areas, and provides a formula for weighting the director’s votes.
The province can change the boundary of the regional district and its electoral areas by amending the Letters Patent and the Local Government Divison facilitates these changes through a restructure process.
Regional districts can provide a broad range of services with the exception of roads and policing.
The choice of services is determined by the regional board but only with the support of the electors.
Therefore, the breadth of services varies with each regional district according to its circumstances and local opinion.
Regional districts are the planning jurisdiction for electoral areas and can adopt zoning bylaws and official community plans.
In addition, regional districts can have a region-wide planning role by developing a regional growth strategy.
In places where regional districts provide services such as water and sewer, they own the infrastructure and are responsible for maintaining it.
While most of the infrastructure is in communities that are not incorporated as municipalities, there are a few instances where the regional district is responsible for regionally-based infrastructure.
The Local Government Division approves of certain regional district bylaws.
The Inspector of Municipalities is responsible for approving service area establishment bylaws and borrowing bylaws as well as for processing regional district financial requisitions.
The Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development approves certain land-use bylaws.
In addition, the Division plays a role facilitating service reviews and regional growth strategies.