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Municipal government in Canada

Municipal government in Canada

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A municipal government in Canada is a local council authority which provides local services, facilities, safety and infrastructure for communities. Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 has three levels of government; federal
Canadian federalism
Canada is a federation with two distinct jurisdictions of political authority: the country-wide federal government and the ten regionally-based provincial governments. It also has three territorial governments in the far north, though these are subject to the federal government...

, provincial
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

 and municipal. According to Section 92(8) of the Constitution Act, 1867
Constitution Act, 1867
The Constitution Act, 1867 , is a major part of Canada's Constitution. The Act created a federal dominion and defines much of the operation of the Government of Canada, including its federal structure, the House of Commons, the Senate, the justice system, and the taxation system...

, "In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to... Municipal Institutions in the Province." There are about 3,700 municipal governments in Canada.

History


Like many Canadian political institutions, municipal government has its roots in the medieval system of government in England. Famously, the city of Winchester
Winchester
Winchester is a historic cathedral city and former capital city of England. It is the county town of Hampshire, in South East England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government district, and is located at the western end of the South Downs, along the course of...

 was given its charter in 1185, and the granting of freedoms became endorsed in the Magna Carta
Magna Carta
Magna Carta is an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions, which included the most direct challenges to the monarch's authority to date. The charter first passed into law in 1225...

, which was signed in 1215. The first formal municipality in Canada was the city of Saint John
Saint John, New Brunswick
City of Saint John , or commonly Saint John, is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick, and the first incorporated city in Canada. The city is situated along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. In 2006 the city proper had a population of 74,043...

 in New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

, which received royal approval in 1785. For municipal government, this began an almost 50-year hiatus of receiving approval from the government, ending in the 1830s when the issue was placed on the agenda once again. In 1835, the English parliament passed the Municipal Corporations Act, which specified how municipalities were to function and be elected. The ideas from this law were transferred to Canada by Lord Durham, who submitted a report to then-Governor-General, Lord Sydenham. In late 1840 to early 1841 the governments of what was Canada at the time enacted various acts which established municipal government in all areas of the country.

In 1849, the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
The Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada was the lower house of the legislature for the Province of Canada, which consisted of the former provinces of Lower Canada, then known as Canada East and later the province of Quebec, and Upper Canada, then known as Canada West and later the...

 approved a Canadian version of the Municipal Corporations Act, often referred to as the Baldwin Act in honour of its creator, Robert Baldwin
Robert Baldwin
Robert Baldwin was born at York . He, along with his political partner Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, led the first responsible ministry in Canada, regarded by some as the first truly Canadian government....

. It delegated authority
Delegated legislation
In the United Kingdom, delegated legislation is legislation or law that is passed otherwise than in an Act of Parliament . Instead, an enabling Act confers a power to make delegated legislation on a Government Minister or another person or body...

 to the municipal governments so they could raise taxes and enact by-laws. It also established a hierarchy of types of municipal governments, starting at the top with cities and continued down past towns, villages and finally townships. Changes to the boundaries of these new governments could be made by petitioning the provincial Municipal Board or by requesting a change through the legislature.

By the early 1900s, Canada was deeply involved in a period of municipal reform. An attempt to distinguish municipal government from the provincial legislature occurred, and the municipal governments were compared with a board of directors
Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...

 - this form of government was not for advancing a certain political party's view, it was for sitting down and running it 'like a business'. As such, the idea that a larger municipality should have more councillors was the same as having a large board of directors for a larger company; i.e., not functionally possible.

Between the 1920s and the 1960s the municipalities received increased funding from their provincial government parents. This was partly due to the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, but further discussion about reform reared its head in the 1970s. In many cities, the system of having a few very large wards encompassing many different walks of life was replaced with one ward for every area with different demographics; this was to ensure that councillors would not have conflicting interests between the well-off and those not so. The arguments over municipal government reform continue, seen in the recent City of Toronto Act 1997 dispute.

Types of municipal government


Municipal governments are, in effect, subdivisions of their province
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

. While the municipality has autonomy on most decisions, all by-laws passed by that municipal government are subject to change by the provincial government at any time.

An example of a typical municipal government structure can be found in New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

, which played host to the first municipal government in Canada in 1785 at Saint John
Saint John, New Brunswick
City of Saint John , or commonly Saint John, is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick, and the first incorporated city in Canada. The city is situated along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. In 2006 the city proper had a population of 74,043...

.

Local


In Canada the types of municipal government vary between provinces, although they all perform the same functions. The general hierarchy was established in 1849 with the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act. The largest municipalities are usually called cities
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

, and their governments city councils. Smaller governments are commonly called town
Town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

s, village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s, parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

es, rural municipalities
Rural municipality
A rural municipality, often abbreviated RM, is a form of municipality in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, perhaps best comparable to counties or townships in the western United States...

, township
Township
The word township is used to refer to different kinds of settlements in different countries. Township is generally associated with an urban area. However there are many exceptions to this rule. In Australia, the United States, and Canada, they may be settlements too small to be considered urban...

s or hamlets
Hamlet (place)
A hamlet is usually a rural settlement which is too small to be considered a village, though sometimes the word is used for a different sort of community. Historically, when a hamlet became large enough to justify building a church, it was then classified as a village...

. Some may also be directly designated as municipalities
Municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 rather than as a particular type of municipality, but this term is still considered inclusive of all local governments regardless of their status.

The term "borough" was previously used in Metropolitan Toronto
Metropolitan Toronto
The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was a senior level of municipal government in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area from 1954 to 1998. It was created out of York County and was a precursor to the later concept of a regional municipality, being formed of smaller municipalities but having more...

, Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, to denote suburban municipalities. The Borough of East York
East York
East York can refer to:*East York, Pennsylvania, United States*East York, Ontario, Canada...

 was the last municipality to hold this status, relinquishing it upon becoming part of the City of Toronto on January 1, 1998.

In Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

, there is no legal distinction between cities and towns — although an informal and subjective distinction may be observed by English speakers, legally all "cities" and "towns" in Quebec have the same status of ville
Ville
Ville is the modern French word of Latin origin now meaning city or town, but the first meaning in the middle-ages was farm and then village...

.

Regional


In some provinces, several municipalities in a particular area are also part of an upper tier of municipal government, which provides more regionally-oriented services. Depending on the province, this second tier may be called a county
County
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

, regional municipality
Regional municipality
A regional municipality is a type of Canadian municipal government similar to and at the same municipal government level as a county, although the specific structure and servicing responsibilities may vary from place to place...

, regional district or regional county municipality
Regional county municipality
The term regional county municipality or RCM is used in Quebec to designate one of 86 county-like political and geographic units. In most cases, they are also census divisions. Regional County Municipalities are a supralocal type of "Regional Municipality" and are still commonly referred to as...

.

In Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

, three municipalities are designated as "regional municipalities". A regional municipality is a single municipal government covering an entire historical county including all formerly incorporated towns and cities within the county. Within the three regional municipalities, designations such as "city" and "town" exist only as informal signifiers for historically chartered towns and cities that used to exist prior to the establishment of the regional municipality.

Unincorporated areas


Some areas in Canada are unincorporated
Unincorporated area
In law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not a part of any municipality.To "incorporate" in this context means to form a municipal corporation, a city, town, or village with its own government. An unincorporated community is usually not subject to or taxed by a municipal government...

, meaning that they do not have a municipal government at all. Any government services in an unincorporated area are provided either by a local agency, such as a local services board or local service district
Local service district
A local service district is a unit of rural municipal government in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador which cover areas outside incorporated cities, towns and villages for provision of municipal services such as fire protection, garbage disposal and sewage.- New...

, or by the province itself.

Sublocal


In Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

, the term borough
Borough
A borough is an administrative division in various countries. In principle, the term borough designates a self-governing township although, in practice, official use of the term varies widely....

 is generally used as the English translation of arrondissement
Arrondissement
Arrondissement is any of various administrative divisions of France, certain other Francophone countries, and the Netherlands.-France:The 101 French departments are divided into 342 arrondissements, which may be translated into English as districts. The capital of an arrondissement is called a...

, referring to an administrative division of a municipality. Only eight municipalities in Quebec are divided into boroughs. (See List of boroughs in Quebec.)

Powers and functions


While many municipal governments have different functions to others (urban vs. rural, etc.), and vary from province to province, most of the services and functions they perform are effectively the same. Functions of municipal governments can include:
  • Management of the local policing and firefighting stations. Whilst this comes under the jurisdiction of the provincial government in some areas, it is not uncommon to see municipality police and fire stations.
  • Transportation. Whilst municipal governments may not be responsible for large highways, small roads and tracks usually come under their control. Additionally, municipal governments may operate bus and train services.
  • Education management or funding school boards. In many municipalities, the school board is voted in directly by the people and funded by the municipal government itself from the taxes it collects.
  • Planning and development. In order to build an extension on to a house, for example, a municipal government permit or certificate of approval may be required. They are also responsible for administering industrial, residential and commercial zones.
  • Finance and collecting municipality taxes. Most municipalities (with the exception of some rural ones) have the power to collect taxes in order to provide the services mentioned in this list. Almost 10% of the national GDP
    Gross domestic product
    Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

     is spent on municipal government services, and when the government is not funded by the provincial government, taxes need to be imposed.
  • Public utilities and other services. Usually parks are taken care of by the municipal government and occasionally sewerage, water, etc.
  • In Quebec, Ontario and Alberta the range of local government services is broadened to include electricity, telephone and gas services.

Structure and funding



Most local governments are formed by a charter
Municipal charter
A city charter or town charter is a legal document establishing a municipality such as a city or town. The concept developed in Europe during the middle ages....

 or act
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 granted by the province or territory
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

. Local governments are not mentioned in the Canadian Constitution other than to say they are responsibility of the provinces. Consequently, municipalities can be created, amalgamated
Amalgamation (politics)
A merger or amalgamation in a political or administrative sense is the combination of two or more political or administrative entities such as municipalities , counties, districts, etc. into a single entity. This term is used when the process occurs within a sovereign entity...

, or disbanded at the whim of the provincial government which controls them. They are also limited in the amount of interaction they have with the federal government
Government of Canada
The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government, is the system whereby the federation of Canada is administered by a common authority; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council...

 because this would infringe upon an area of provincial jurisdiction
Canadian federalism
Canada is a federation with two distinct jurisdictions of political authority: the country-wide federal government and the ten regionally-based provincial governments. It also has three territorial governments in the far north, though these are subject to the federal government...

.

Since each province is responsible for creating local governments in its own territory, the names, functions, and powers of local bodies vary widely across the country. Local governments generally have limited powers, namely creating local by-laws and taxation (property tax
Property tax
A property tax is an ad valorem levy on the value of property that the owner is required to pay. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located; it may be paid to a national government, a federated state or a municipality...

).

Typically, a municipal government is made up of one mayor (occasionally reeve or warden) and a set number of councillor
Councillor
A councillor or councilor is a member of a local government council, such as a city council.Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.-United Kingdom:...

s (occasionally alderman
Alderman
An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council...

). There are usually 10-20 councillors in one council, however an exception to this is Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, with over 50 councillors. The councillors may represent districts called wards.

In Canada, 83% of the municipal government revenue is raised through their own sources, and legally their accounts cannot go into deficit, safeguarding the provinces from unintentionally guaranteeing their municipal governments' debts. The majority of funding for Canadian municipal governments comes from property tax
Property tax
A property tax is an ad valorem levy on the value of property that the owner is required to pay. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located; it may be paid to a national government, a federated state or a municipality...

es. Additional funding sources include the sales of goods and services and tax transfers from the provincial government.

Elections



Due to the control that the provinces have over their municipal governments, terms that councillors serve vary from province to province. Unlike most provincial elections, municipal elections are usually held on a fixed date.

See also


  • Administrative divisions of Canada
    Administrative divisions of Canada
    Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories.Each province has a unique system of local government which may include upper-tier or rural jurisdictions such as counties, municipal districts, regional municipalities, regional districts or regional county municipalities, and lower-tier...

  • Government of Canada
    Government of Canada
    The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government, is the system whereby the federation of Canada is administered by a common authority; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council...

  • History of cities in Canada
    History of cities in Canada
    Over the last 14,000 years, the territory that is now called Canada has evolved from a place without human habitation, to one characterized by a relatively small number of medium- to large-sized cities...

  • List of towns in Canada
  • List of cities in Canada
  • Provinces and territories of Canada
    Provinces and territories of Canada
    The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

  • List of governments in Canada by annual expenditures

External links