Incorporation and Restructure
Each province is responsible for creating its own system of local government.
In British Columbia, the fabric of the local government system overlays every community in the province and they are represented by one or more forms of local government:
Representation by these forms of local government is not always static.
Some communities that are represented by a regional district or improvement district, may be incorporated as new municipalities, or they may become part of existing municipalities through a
municipal boundary extension or restructure process.
There are 160 municipalities, 27 regional districts and 231 improvement districts in British Columbia.
Altogether, there is a rich variety of local government structures matching the diversity of communities and regions in this province.
Municipalities are the cornerstone of the local government system in British Columbia and have the most autonomy
to provide local services to citizens.
Regional districts are a federation of municipalities and unincorporated areas that provide region-wide services, sub-regional services, and act as the primary local government service provider in the unincorporated areas.
Improvement districts are special purpose bodies that are specifically authorized to provide one or more services, typically in areas outside a municipality.
Communities change as a result of local circumstances such as population growth and urban development, demands for new or improved services and resident desires for more effective political representation.
As communities change the citizens may feel that one type of local government may be better suited than another type to meet the needs of the community (see Guide to Changes
to Local Government Structure in BC (PDF, 126KB)).
Municipal incorporation and restructure are ways for citizens to get the local government that they want.
Municipal Restructure can be either:
Improvement District Restructure can be either:
Regional district restructure can be either:
Principles of Change
The province's approach towards municipal incorporation and restructure is facilitative and is guided by the following principles:
- The process for examining change should be locally initiated and focused;
- Communities choose how they are governed;
- The role of the Local Government Department is to facilitate the processes whereby local governments and citizens make informed choices about how they are governed; and
- Some restructure activities require that First Nations be engaged. (see First Nations Engagement Guide, (PDF, 297KB))
Role of the Local Government Department
The Local Government Department has a multi-faceted role with respect to incorporation and structure changes by:
- Providing advice to local governments and local citizens about changes
to local government structure;
- Facilitating the decision-making process and discussions between various
stakeholders to the process, including local citizens, local government
bodies, local community organizations, provincial agencies, and industry;
- Supporting the change process by providing financial assistance under
the Local Government Grants Regulation.
There are 3 components to this assistance:
- Restructure planning grants which fund governance review studies and the public consultation process;
- Restructure assistance grants which provide financial assistance to a new or restructured municipality.
These are per capita grants provided in conjunction with assistance from other ministries; and
- Restructure implementation grants which fund the administrative costs for a new or restructured municipality and support improvement district conversions.
- Taking the necessary action to effect the incorporation or restructure once a decision has been made at the local level.
This may include obtaining Cabinet approval of Letters Patent which are the legal documents creating or modifying a local government structure; obtaining Cabinet approval of a specific regulation; or obtaining legislative changes to the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act; and
- Working with stakeholders to develop advisory materials and best practices
to guide the change process.