Elector approval process

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Council is occasionally required to obtain the approval of the electors before taking actionthe most common examples are prior to adopting a loan authorization bylaw or taking on certain types of liabilities. 

Obtaining the approval of the electors

There are two ways under the Community Charter to obtain the approval of the City’s electors when required: 

Referendum

Called “assent of the electors” in the Community Charter. 

A referendum to obtain the assent of the electors must be held according to the rules and regulations set out in the Local Government Act for “Assent Voting.” These rules indicate who may vote, when the vote is to occur, how the votes are to be counted and many other aspects of the process (essentially the same way the legislation sets out the rules and regulations for voting in a municipal election). 

If the timing is appropriate, a referenda question may be included in voting during a General Local Election due to the fact that they require much of the same preparation and cost as a municipal election.   

Alternative approval process (AAP) 

AAP is a less costly and less time-consuming way of asking the electorate’s permission to proceed with the adoption of a bylaw, agreement or other matter in question that requires elector approval. If at least 10 per cent of the estimated number of electors is opposed through the petitioning process, Council isnt deemed to have the approval of the electors to proceed. 

Who is eligible to participate in an AAP?

Any individual who qualifies as a resident elector or non-resident property elector within the area affected by the subject matter of the AAP. Usually an AAP is City-wide, but it’s possible that it could be limited to a smaller area of electors.  

What happens during an AAP?

Council will direct staff to proceed with obtaining the approval of the electors on a matter via an AAP. Staff will then bring a report forward to City Council at an open meeting that will outline the proposed advertising dates for the AAP, the proposed deadline for receipt of responses, the estimated number of electors and the proposed “elector response form." Council must approve these by resolution and, following that, the response forms are made available to the electors. 

Notice to residents

The AAP must then be advertised in the newspaper at least twice, and the deadline for receipt of the response forms must be at least 30 days after the second advertisement. Depending on the subject matter of the AAP, there may be additional newspaper ads, public open houses, press releases and other public communications. 

Response forms

Once the AAP starts, the forms are available from the Office of the City Clerk at City Hall for pick up or, upon request, they can be faxed, mailed or e-mailed to an elector. In some cases, petition forms may be made available at other public facilities such as recreation centres or public libraries and made available on our website.   

The completed forms must be delivered to the Office of the City Clerk by the deadline in order to be counted. Usually theres room for five or six electors to sign one form, or each elector may sign their own form. Accurate copies of the Council approved forms are also acceptable, as long as theyre not altered. 

Once the completed AAP elector response forms are delivered to the Office of the City Clerk and receivedthey’re date stamped and held in the Office of the City Clerk’s vault while the process is on-going. The number of responses received isnt generally made public during the process. 

Once the deadline has passed, the responses are validated and the City Clerk forwards a “Certificate of Sufficiency” report to Council, in which the total number of valid responses received is given. If the total is at least 10 per cent of the estimated number of electors, Council isnt permitted to proceed with the matter unless its approved by the electorate through a referendum. 

Deciding which approval method to choose 

In almost all cases, Council has a choice in determining which process to employ in obtaining approval of the electors. Matters are dealt with on a case-by-case basis when they come before Council.  

Some considerations include: 

  • The scope of the matter (cost, impact on taxes, importance to the community) 
  • Extent of previous or ongoing public consultation about the matter 
  • The time available to conduct either an AAP or a referendum 

Other things to consider in making the choice are outlined by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on its Alternative Approval Process page.