Legal Studies 479
Local Government Law in Alberta (OCW)


Legal Studies 479
Local Government Law in Alberta (OCW)

Legal Studies 479

Unit 3: Municipal Councils and Bylaws


After completing this unit, you should be able to

  1. describe the purposes of a municipality;
  2. list 3 ways in which municipalities can act;
  3. describe the limits of natural person powers;
  4. describe in general terms the bylaw-making process;
  5. describe how municipalities pass resolutions;
  6. explain how municipalities use their bylaw-making powers;
  7. describe the possible forms of a challenge to municipal action.
  8. describe four mechanisms that citizens can use to change the actions of a municipality; and
  9. explain the role of courts in challenges against municipal actions.

This unit examines in more depth how municipalities act. It also examines how citizens who are unhappy with those actions can persuade a municipality to change its actions. Moreover, this unit explains how, if persuasion is unsuccessful, citizens can challenge those actions.

Section 3 of the Municipal Government Act provides that the purposes of a municipality are

  1. to provide good government;
  2. to provide those services, facilities or other things that council feels are necessary or desirable; and
  3. to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.

The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, in Landrex v. City of St. Albert, discussed the role of government:

[37]   The MGA contains a complex web of rules for the orderly governance of municipalities in the interests of their citizens. The purposes of a municipality are to provide good government; to provide services, facilities, and other things that in the opinion of council are necessary or desirable for the municipality; and ultimately to develop and maintain safe and viable communities (s. 3).  Planning powers given to municipalities under Part 17 of the Act are exercised through Municipal Development Plans and Area Structure Plans so that development can occur in a planned and orderly way. St. Albert has in place its comprehensive Municipal Development Plan, CityPlan.

[38]   From these provisions of the MGA, I deduce that it is the intention of the legislators that through the auspices of good government, people will be provided with the services and facilities necessary to meet their needs and to assure safe and viable communities. Viable communities involve more than bricks and mortar and sewer and water lines. Viable communities also involve green spaces, arts and recreation facilities, and the myriad other amenities that contribute to the health and well-being of the people living in those communities. The concept of viable communities involves long-term urban planning, an elaborate approach to the achievement of community expectations and goals, the mechanics of which are compendiously detailed in the Act.

[39]   The MGA is premised on the notion that governance will be achieved through democratic elections. Part 5 contemplates that each municipality will be governed by a council elected in accordance with the Local Authorities Election Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. L-21. Councillors are obliged under s. 153 of the MGA to consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole, and to participate in developing and evaluating the policies and programs of the municipality. In other words, municipalities are democratically elected governments charged with the responsibility to consider the welfare and interests of the people in their communities in developing and implementing policies.

A municipality is a corporation (section 4) and has the powers of a natural person (section 6). A municipality is empowered by statute and must perform the duties that are imposed on it by statute or that it imposes on itself by policy (section 5).  While this gives a municipality latitude to assume responsibility for a variety of matters, municipalities should exercise caution in imposing duties on themselves.  If a municipality sets a policy regarding the frequency of inspections, for example, it must follow that policy. If it does not, it may be liable for that failure. 

Alberta Court of Queen's Bench

Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. Author: Verne Equinox. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved April 3, 2012.

Skip Table of contentsSkip AdministrationSkip Navigation