Council Meetings - Municipal Government Act
The new Municipal Government Act sets out requirements for holding regular, special, closed, and electronic council meetings and describes the duties of council, membership on council committees, development of a code of conduct and procedural bylaw for conducting council business, confidentiality, abstentions and secret voting.
The size of a council for a municipality that is a town or rural municipality has been changed for greater clarity and consistency. Under the new Act, councils for towns and rural municipalities will require a mayor and six councillors. A council may consist of a mayor and eight councillors if a municipal council has passed a bylaw to this effect.
Duties of Council
The role and duties of council are clarified and described in greater detail. These duties include: carrying out duties and functions expressly given to council in the legislation; requirement to develop policies related to programs and services; appointment of a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO); requirement to develop a procedural bylaw for council and council committee meetings; development of a Code of Conduct for council; and the proper exercise of municipal powers.
Membership on Council Committees
Under the Act, the mayor is considered to be a member of every committee or other organization which the council or mayor establishes. When in attendance at meetings, the mayor has all the rights, privileges, powers, and duties of the other members of the committee or organization.
Requirement for a Code of Conduct
Municipal councils will be required to develop Codes of Conduct for council members and employees that describe the procedure to be followed where either a councillor or an employee knows or questions whether he/she has a conflict of interest. They must also include rules regarding confidentiality and disclosure and describe a process for resolving a conflict of interest.
Requirement to Develop a Procedural Bylaw
All municipal councils will be required to develop a procedural bylaw that establishes rules of procedure for council and council committee meetings including: establishment of council committees; calling, rescheduling and cancelling of meetings; processes for giving advance public notice of meetings and council committee meetings; and meeting governance.
Regular Meeting of Council
Under the new Act, municipal councils are required to establish an annual schedule of meetings and at least six meetings each year must be open to the public.
A special meeting can be called by the CAO when requested to do so by the mayor or a majority of council members. The notification requirements for special meetings are more flexible. Under the new Act, at least 24 hours’ notice must be given to the public in advance of special meetings through local media, or as described in the procedural bylaw, and to council members.
The procedures for conducting closed meetings are clarified and described. Under the new Act, a council or council committee may, by resolution, close all or part of the meeting to the public either in advance or during the meeting, but only to discuss the following matters: confidential information; commercial information that could be damaging to the municipality if disclosed; protected personal information; human resource related matters; matters still under consideration by council that, if discussed in public prior to a decision being made, could limit the municipality’s ability to act or negotiate of behalf of residents; current legal matters including investigations; and information which, if disclosed, could prejudice security and the maintenance of the law.
The requirements for conducting meetings of council and council committees by electronic means are described. Under the new Act, electronic meetings are allowed if authorized by procedural bylaw and if they are conducted in a way that enables the council and committee members to hear and speak to each other. If the meeting is a public meeting, notice must be given to the public that includes notification of the means by which it is to be conducted and the meeting facility must be set up to ensure the public is able to see and hear participants in the meeting. In addition, a council or committee member can only debate and vote on a matter if the member has access to all relevant information required to make an informed decision.
Under the new Act, no vote of council may be taken by secret ballot and any vote taken in this manner is not valid.
Existing Legislative Framework: What’s in Place Currently
The requirements for municipal council sizes vary under the current Acts. Depending upon the type of municipality, council sizes currently range between three and ten councillors plus a mayor or a chair.
Under the Municipalities Act, councils must conduct at least one meeting a year.
Under the Charlottetown and Area Municipalities Act, councils must hold monthly meetings and at least seven days public notice is required prior to holding a special meeting.
Under the City of Summerside Act, council must hold regular monthly meetings on a day determined by council.