Roles, Council and Administration

Council Roles

Representative Role

  • represent the electorate, the whole municipality
  • gather information from people; assess in light of what is the common good
  • balance what individual constituents want and what is best for the entire community
  • bring forward ideas to council, if the team agrees, convert the idea into action
  • represent the municipality at official functions - especially true of CEO (mayor or reeve)

Legislative Role

  • participate in policy setting, law making process
  • policy is - direction , goals, objectives; policy is - not doing, implementing, operational activities

Executive Role

  • ensure the policy is carried out appropriately through the Council process
  • No Administrative Role

CAO Role

  • Administrative Role
  • The administration's role is to implement policy as set by Council.

Councillor Duties

  • to consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole and to bring to council's attention anything that would promote the welfare or interests of the municipality;
  • to participate generally in developing and evaluating the policies and programs of the municipality;
  • to participate in council meetings and council committee meetings and meetings of other bodies to which they are appointed by the council;
  • to obtain information about the operation or administration of the municipality from the chief administrative officer or a person designated by the chief administrative officer;
  • to keep in confidence matters discussed in private at a council or council committee meeting until discussed at a meeting held in public;
  • to perform any other duty or function imposed on councillors by this or any other enactment or by the council.

Councillor Liability

As you carry out these duties, the question of liability may arise as a result of your actions. However, section535 of the MGA was written to protect you from personal liability while acting in good faith for your municipality. This section does not apply in circumstances of defamation and does not protect the municipal corporation from any such liability. There are several provisions in the MGA that impose liability on a councillor. One of these is found in section 249 which deals with unauthorized expenditures. Another in section 271 which deals with borrowings, loans, or guarantees that cause the municipality to exceed its debt limit. See page 10 Now That You Have Been Elected July 2017 release.

See Section 208 & 209, Municipal Government Act
The Municipal Administration

Your administration exists to take care of the everyday work of running a municipal government. This includes providing a variety of programs and services, based on the priorities that the council has set for the municipality. As a councillor, residents will ask you for information on the municipality's programs and services. Your most important contact is the Chief Administrative Officer.

Staying out of the day-to-day operation of the municipality allows you to concentrate on policy-making. Work with the CAO to keep informed on what the municipality is doing. You will depend on the CAO to provide you with information to make sound decisions.

Organizational Chart

Ask the Chief Appointed Officer (CAO) for a copy of the organizational chart so that you understand how the municipal administration is organized. Each council must establish the position of CAO bylaw, but may appoint more than one person to carry out the powers, duties and functions of the position. The style of the organization is council's prerogative. Generally, most councils have the CAO directly responsible to them with administration reporting to the CAO.

The Chief Elected Official (CEO)

The CEO, in addition to performing a councillor's cuties, must preside when attending a council meeting unless a bylaw provides otherwise. The CEO must also perform any other duty imposed by the MGA or any other enactment. The CEO is also generally the main spokesperson for the municipality, unless the duty is delegated to another councillor. The title CEO may be also be changed to one that council believes is appropriate to the office, such as mayor or reeve.

See sections 150,154 & 155 Municipal Government Act

A Team Approach

Working as a team with the rest of council and the CAO will make your time on council a success. This isn't going to be easy. Your power and influence as a council member rests on your ability to persuade others to accept your point of view. When an issue is being studied, be sure to express your views as a part of the debate. Free exchanges of ideas makes for good decisions, but limit the exchange to the issue at hand. Personal attacks have no place on council and are a sure way to prevent your council from accomplishing its goals. Doing your part to reduce conflict on council is the best way to achieve positive results in municipal government.

Once council has made a decision, it becomes your decision, if you are asked about the issue and you do not wish to defend it, simply explain why the council made the decision.

Working with administration is important to you success on council. Respect and good manners goes a long way in building solid relationships. Management Consultant, speaker and author George Cuff says,

"I hate to admit to this, but there are bullies on some councils. Their idea of sport is to fry a member of the administration by name in a public forum, realizing that there is little likelihood that such remarks will result in any lasting damage -- to the member of council that is. The old "let's tie the can to the bureaucracy" theme may seem to win favour in some quarters, but it is short-lived at best. Many of the "thinking public" realize that staff are simply a reflection of their political bosses, and that any effective organization recognizes that it needs to work together to achieve desired results. Council relies on the goodwill and support of its administration to make progress. Demeaning staff efforts will not improve morale or efficiency and effectiveness. Most likely, the reaction will be less than enthusiastic support for councillors taking liberties with staff who are, by the nature of their employment, almost without avenues for rebuttal."
Public Criticism of the Bureaucracy, George B. Cuff, Making a Difference: Cuff's Guide for Municipal Leaders Volume 1: A survival guide for elected officials (St. Thomas, Ontario: Municipal World, Inc., 2002)