Municipal Elections and By-Elections

Election processes are the same for all municipalities and the procedures for general elections and by-elections are guided by the Municipal Government Act (MGA), the Municipal Election Regulations, the Campaign Contributions and Election Expenses Bylaw Regulations, and the Plebiscite Regulations.  
 
The MGA and regulations describe election processes, including:
  • running all day elections
  • holding advance polls
  • establishing election bylaws
  • qualifications of electors and candidates
  • alternative voting methods
  • procedures for nomination, acclamation and vacancies
  • campaign contributions, spending limits and disclosures, and 
  • eligibility requirements for municipal employees seeking election to municipal council.
 
All municipalities must adopt a Campaign Contributions and Election Expenses Bylaw.  Municipalities can include other election related rules in their Election Bylaw.  Be sure to check the municipality's election bylaw for additional rules.

When are municipal elections?

Starting in 2018, municipal elections take place on the first Monday in November. These all-day general elections happen every four years. The next general municipal elections will be held on Monday, November 7, 2022.

How do municipal elections take place?

Municipal councils must establish a bylaw for campaign contributions and election expenses that addresses contribution eligibility, campaign contribution limits, disclosure requirements and spending limits for the mayor and councillors.  
 
Councils can also include other areas in their Election Bylaw that allows them to conduct and oversee elections.  The Election Bylaw can:
  • divide the municipality into wards
  • establish an enumeration or registration system  to develop a list of electors 
  • set up mobile polling stations
  • allow for alternative voting methods (e.g. mail-in-ballots or electronic voting)
  • establish a higher number of nominators 
  • allow for other powers to be exercised in accordance with the Act
  • charge deposits. 

All municipalities have an Election Bylaw in place. 

A municipality will appoint a Municipal Electoral Officer (MEO) and Deputy Municipal Electoral Officer by the 2nd Monday in May in a general election year or as required for a by-election.   

The MEO will prepare for the municipal election and oversee the conduct of the election.  They are responsible for:

  • developing the list of electors
  • opening an election’s office
  • issuing the nominations notice
  • receiving nominations 
  • having an advance poll, and
  • ensuring all the proper processes are followed leading up to and on election day.  

Can a councillor run for a vacant mayoral position?

If a council member wishes to run for a vacant mayoral position, they must resign their current position.  If the two by-elections are to be held at the same time, that councillor must give advance notice to ensure the notice of nominations includes both positions.  Otherwise, the municipality must hold a second by-election within six months to fill the vacant council seat. 

This process would be the same if a mayor wanted to run for a vacant councillor position.  

Is my municipality divided into wards or is council elected at large?

A council may, by bylaw, divide a municipality into wards and allow council members to be elected on this basis. Mayors will continue to be elected at large. There are also requirements regarding eligibility, the total number of candidates that can be elected and the creation of an Electoral Boundaries Commission to review the wards every three years following a municipal election after the Act comes into force. 
 
Municipal elections will be at large if a municipality is not divided into wards.  Contact your municipality for more information.

What if there are not enough candidates nominated in the municipality?

The procedures and time periods for nominating a candidate, as well as declaring a candidate elected by acclamation, are described in the MGA. If fewer people are nominated as candidates than the number required to be elected to municipal council, additional time is allowed for nominating candidates. 
 
If there are not enough nominations received at the end of this time period to fill the vacancies on council, the nominated candidates are acclaimed and the Minister may appoint the required additional number of councillors as long as they are qualified to hold office and are residents of the municipality. The Minister may also recommend to the Lieutenant Governor and Council that the municipality be restructured as set out in another part of the MGA.
 
If there are just enough candidates nominated the end of the extended nomination period to fill the positions, the candidates are elected by acclamation and there is no election day.
 
When there are more candidates nominated than there are council positions, the advance poll and election day will occur as scheduled.  

Can municipal employees run for municipal council?

The requirements and procedures related to the eligibility and actions of an employee of a municipality who wants to seek election to municipal council are set out in the Act.  An employee who meets all the qualifications and requirements is eligible to be a candidate under the Act.  However, the Act requires that an employee apply for leave of absence without pay prior to declaring his or her candidacy and conditions regarding this process are set out in the Act.  
 
The Act also describes rules related to employee conduct and activity during an election and allows municipal councils to make bylaws that restrict specific types of municipal employees from participating in elections.
Note: This page is prepared for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice.
Published date: 
June 5, 2018