Now That you Have Been Elected - Getting Started

Where do I start?

Congratulations! Now that you have been elected to council there are a few things you need to know to help you get started and to understand your role and the power and duties of a municipal council.

Alberta Municipal Affairs has prepared an excellent guideline "Now that You've Been Elected".

First Things First . . .

Municipal Power

In Canadian law, authority and decision making power is delegated, or passed down, from one level of government to another until it reaches the level of government closest to the people, the municipal government.

The delegation or passing down starts with the Constitution of Canada. The Constitution gives some powers to the federal level of government and some to the provincial level of government. Generally, the federal government is responsible for matters which affect the entire country while the provincial level of government is responsible for matters of provincial or local nature.

The provincial government passes on its authority to local elected officials. This authority is passed on through legislation, the Municipal Government Act, to municipalities

Who's Who?

There are three distinct components of a municipality. They are:


A corporation is a distinct legal entity - it has a name, a corporate seal, the ability to enter into contracts, borrow money, makes bylaws and enforces them and hire and fire the chief appointed officer (may be referred to as the manager, commissioner, administrator, and secretary to name a few of the titles conferred on the chief appointed officer).

But, a corporation cannot sign cheques or contracts to give instruction, so a board of individuals is elected to be the human element of corporation. The board continues, year after year, but the membership on the board, the elected officials, change every four (4) years at election time. Your job as an elected official is to steer the corporation.

Power of the Corporation:

Natural Person Powers are usually described as a municipality's corporate powers.
Special or Governance Powers

  • Assessment and taxation
  • Law making
  • Expropriation
  • Civic Holidays
See Section 5 & 6, Municipal Government Act

Purpose of the Corporation:

  • To provide good government.
  • To provide services, facilities or other things that, in the opinion of council, are necessary or desirable for all or part of the community.
  • To develop and maintain safe and viable communities.
See Section 3, Municipal Government Act


Council is the governing body of the corporation and the custodian of its powers, both legislative and administrative. The Municipal Government Act (MGA) provides that council can only exercise the powers of a municipal corporation in the proper form, by either bylaw of resolution.

Council is responsible for making the decisions necessary to allow the corporation to achieve its purposes by:

  • determining goals and priorities
  • developing and approving policies
  • raising and spending money
  • planning and providing services and programs
  • hiring the chief appointed official (CAO)
  • representing the municipality, particularly the chief elected official (CEO) also referred to as the mayor or reeve
See Section 142, Municipal Government Act

Council has the authority to act:

  • as collective, individual elected officials do NOT have the authority to act
  • can only act by passing resolutions or bylaws
    See Section 7& 8, Municipal Government Act
  • to be valid, resolutions and bylaws must be passed according to the process set out in legislation
    See Section 180-191, Municipal Government Act
  • meetings must be properly called and open to the public
  • See Section 192-198, Municipal Government Act & FOIP
  • there must be a quorum of council present at a meeting and all members present must vote unless there is a reason to abstain i.e. pecuniary interest or absent from a hearing
  • See Section 181-184, Municipal Government Act
  • process must be followed for enacting bylaws - 3 readings
  • See Section 187-190, Municipal Government Act

Council's role is to set policy that enables the corporation to achieve its purpose. Council is a continuing body, a collective that acts by passing bylaws or resolutions. Council must not exercise a power or function or perform a duty that has been assigned specifically to the chief appointed official (CAO) or designated officer by the MGA, another enactment or bylaw.

See Section 201 Municipal Government Act


Administration exists to take care of the everyday work and the running of the municipality. The Municipal Government Act sets out the basic duties and responsibilities of the chief appointed official (CAO). The chief appointed official (CAO) position is established by bylaw. Council may give the position and appropriate title i.e. commissioner, manager, administrator, secretary-treasurer. The CAO position is the only position that is filled by council. The Municipal Government Act states council is required to do an annual written performance appraisal of the CAO. This is the same review any corporate board of directors would be expected to conduct on their executive director.

See Section 205 & 205.1, Municipal Government Act

Chief Appointed Officer (CAO) Responsibilities

  • administrative head
  • implements policies
  • advises and informs council on operations and affairs of the municipality
  • performs legislated duties
See Section 207, Municipal Government Act

Designated Officer

A CAO may designate any of his/her powers, or functions to a designated officer or to an employee. Designated Officer positions are established by bylaw and are subject to the CAO's supervision, unless otherwise provided by bylaw. A designated officer may also further delegate to an employee of the municipality any of these powers, duties or functions.


A vital part of the smooth operation of municipal government is the interaction between council and administration.

  • Understanding how administration works helps the municipal councillor understand their role.
  • Staying out of the day-to-day operation of the municipality allow the council members to concentrate on policy making and program monitoring.
  • Councils depend on the CAO to provide them with information to make sound decisions.
  • Work with the CAO to keep informed on what the municipality is doing.