Role of Council - Municipal Government Act

The new Municipal Government Act sets out the purpose, powers and duties of municipal councils as well as delegation of powers, duties and functions.

Clear Purpose and Broad Powers

Municipal councils will have more authority and flexibility to provide services. Under the new Act, a council is responsible for providing services, facilities and other things that the council considers necessary or desirable for the municipality. In addition, the new Act defines the purpose of a council to include providing good government, providing stewardship of public assets and developing, maintaining a safe and viable municipality and encouraging and enabling the public to participate in matters affecting the municipality.  All municipalities will be required to provide three mandatory services: fire protection, land use planning services, and emergency measures planning. 

Duties of Council

While the new Act provides councils with broader authority, it also clarifies the duties of a council. These duties include:

  • Developing policies for services and programs
  • Evaluating services and programs on a regular basis
  • Appointing, directing and managing a chief administrative officer (CAO)
  • Revoking or suspending the CAO’s appointment if required
  • Establishing a procedural bylaw
  • Establishing a code of conduct that includes conflict of interest rules
  • Ensuring the powers of the municipality and council are used appropriately and that their duties and functions are carried out
  • Exercising the powers of council or the municipality by passing bylaws or resolutions

Delegation of Role

A council may delegate some of its powers, duties or functions to a council committee or to the CAO by bylaw. A council cannot delegate its power or duty to pass a resolution or bylaw, choose or revoke the appointment of the CAO, hold public hearings or hear and decide on appeals either under its own bylaws or the Act. If a council committee or CAO wants to further delegate any powers, duties or functions, the council must allow them to do so by resolution.

Additional Duties and Powers of a Municipality

There are a variety of other duties and powers of a municipality that can or must be carried out through its council. Examples include:

  • Maintaining a corporate seal
  • Adopting a flag, crest, logo, emblem, trademark or coat of arms
  • Entering into agreements for the provision of services
  • Disposing of land.

Existing Legislation: What’s in Place Currently

Municipalities are limited to a specific list of services that they can provide. It is the role of the council to make policies and pass bylaws to provide these services to meet the needs of the public.

The services that a municipal council is responsible for varies.  As a result, councils have been required to make requests to the province to expand the scope of their authority to better serve their residents. 

Councils are required to appoint an administrator or CAO. The administrator or CAO may not be a member of council.

Other requirements regarding the role of council are found throughout the legislation.

Note: This document is prepared by the Municipal Affairs Section of the Department of Communities, Land and Environment for general information purposes. This document should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice. 
Published date: 
January 6, 2017
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