What is Municipal Government?

There are three main levels of government in Canada: Federal, Provincial, and Municipal. The City of Charlottetown is a municipal government.

1. The Federal level* 
This level of government deals with areas of law listed in the Constitution Act, 1867 and that generally affect the whole country. 

2. The Provincial level* 
In each of the 10 provinces in Canada, the provincial government is responsible for areas listed in the Constitution Act, 1867, such as education, health care, some natural resources, and road regulations. Sometimes they share responsibility with the federal government. The three territories have their own governments, with responsibilities that are given to them by the federal government. 

3. The Municipal level* 
This is the level of government that is usually based in a city, town or district (a municipality). Municipal governments are responsible for areas such as parks, community water systems, local police, roadways and parking. They receive authority for these areas from the provincial governments. Across the country there are also band councils, which govern First Nations communities. These elected councils make decisions that affect their local communities.

(*Sourced from Parliament of Canada website. To learn more about the three different levels of government, as well as more about parliament, visit the Parliament of Canada website.)

Charlottetown is a full-service municipality which means the City provides more services to residents than some smaller municipalities.

Municipal governments, like the City of Charlottetown, provide services that are managed locally. These services range from building permits and community events to fire, policing, utility, and more. Municipalities are able to generate revenue from things like property taxes and provincial and federal grants.

City Departments
There are 10 City departments including: Administration. Finance, Fire, Human Resources, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Heritage, Police, Public Works, Sustainability, and the Water and Sewer Utility.

Each department has a manager who oversees the work of the employees within that department. All of the managers report to the Chief Administrative Officer, who also serves as the manager for the Administration Department.

It can be hard to know what each department handles and where to go if you have questions or an inquiry on a specific service. Check out a break down of what each department is responsible for on the City Department webpage.
The Role of Mayor, Council and the CAO
Mayor: The Mayor is elected at large, which means they do not represent a specific ward as the Councillors do. The Mayor is the head and chief executive officer of the municipality. The Mayor has all of the responsibilities of a Councillor plus several additional responsibilities such as providing leadership to the Council and the Chief Administrative Officer of the municipality, recommending directions with regards to bylaws, communicating messages to Council, and reflecting the will of Council.

The Mayor is also responsible for presiding over Council meetings, performing the duties of a member of Council, and casting the deciding vote on bylaws and resolutions when there is a tie in the votes cast by the rest of the Council. The Mayor only votes to break a tie.

Chief Administrative Officer: The CAO, is appointed by the Council and is the only position within the City of Charlottetown that Council is responsible for hiring. The CAO has responsibility for administration and is accountable to the Council. However, the CAO can make recommendations to Council with respect to policy in the same way, municipal councils often make suggestions with respect to administration.

The CAO is also responsible for the records and the finances of the municipality, notifying members of Council about Council meetings, and is responsible for the corporate seal of the municipality and signing all agreements, contracts, deeds and bylaws. A CAO or administrator also performs many other administrative functions relating to elections, bylaws and provides notice to the Minister and the public.

Councillors: In Charlottetown there are 10 wards or geographical areas and one Councillor is elected per ward. Councillors are responsible for considering the well-being and interests of residents and businesses (also called constituents) in their ward. All Councillors participate in council meetings and contribute to decision making. It is the role of the Council to make policies and pass bylaws. Under the Municipal Government Act, the legislation that governs Council, the Mayor and Council cannot interfere with the day-to-day operations of the City departments and must work through the CAO. 

To learn more about Mayor and Council and to access their contact information, click here.

Types of Council Meetings

There are different types of Council meetings for them to conduct City business. The meetings are posted on the Meeting Calendar and agendas are also available on the Agendas webpage.

Below are some definitions that can help navigate the different meetings. 

Advisory Board Meeting: The City of Charlottetown has various advisory boards that meet to review and provide advice or recommendations to Staff, Council or a standing committee.

Public Meeting of Council: Public Meetings are held to consider and decide on rezoning applications (for zoning bylaw changes) and heritage designations. Council must hold a Public Meeting before deciding to change a zoning bylaw. These are meetings where the public can provide feedback.

Monthly Council Meeting: Regular monthly Council meetings are held for final approval of the recommendations made by a standing committee. During regular Council meetings, Council will formally receive reports, vote on by-laws, consider financial and other matters.

Special Meeting of Council: A special meeting can be called by Council if there is urgent business that cannot be delayed until the next regular monthly meeting of council. Special meetings may only deal with the business for which the meeting was called.

Standing Committee Meeting: The City of Charlottetown uses a committee structure to process matters of importance. Issues that require the attention of Council are generally referred to the appropriate Committee for review, discussion and consideration. The decisions of a committee are then forwarded to Council for approval. 

Several members of council sit on each standing committee and the committees are Chaired by a member of Council.

There are 10 standing committees which are:

• Economic Development, Tourism and Events Management.
• Environment and Sustainability;
• Finance, Audit, and Tendering;
• Human Resources, Communication, and Administration;
• Parks, Recreation, and Leisure Activities;
• Planning and Heritage;
• Protective and Emergency Services;
• Public Works and Urban Beautification;
• Strategic Priorities and Intergovernmental Cooperation;
• Water and Sewer Utility.

In order to understand the responsibilities of each Standing Committee check out the Terms of Reference for the committees.

What is the Municipal Government Act (MGA)?
The City of Charlottetown is held accountable through the P.E.I. Municipal Government Act (MGA). This act ensures the public knows exactly how the City of Charlottetown is operating.

The Municipal Government Act came into effect on December 23, 2017. The Municipal Government Act raises the standards regarding good governance, financial accountability, administration and service delivery while providing municipalities with greater authority, flexibility and discretion.

Under the MGA, municipalities like the City of Charlottetown have authority to provide a variety of services ranging from fire protection to public transportation, as well as municipal land use planning services, including developing official plans and bylaws.

The MGA outlines the roles and authority of the Mayor and members of Council, as well as the Chief Administrative Officer. To check out the MGA, visit the Province's website.
Bylaws and Policies
What is a bylaw?

The “by” in bylaw is an old Norse word that means “town.” Simply put a bylaw is a local law at the town, city or municipal level.

By-laws follow a specific political process for their development. They must go through an approval process (e.g., adopted by a majority council vote) and must be signed both by the head of council or presiding officer and by the clerk, under the seal of the corporation.

Canadian municipalities do not have constitutional status, this means that a bylaw can only be passed once it is authorized by other levels of government. Statues like the Municipal Government Act help distribute authority for bylaws. The “whereas” clause that is at the beginning of bylaws typically explains were the authority for the bylaw is coming from.

You can find the City’s bylaws  online.

What is a policy?

City policies are Council statements that set discretionary duties or standards of performance for the City. Enacting policies provides a framework for decision making ensuring consistency throughout the municipality.

A policy addresses recurring issues to provide guidelines setting out the level and manner the City will perform duties imposed on itself or those imposed on the City by legislation.

City policies are available online.

What's the difference between a bylaw and policy?

Policies provide guidance to staff when carrying out their duties on behalf of residents. Where bylaws are laws that are enacted by Council through the approval of two readings (or votes of Council) of the Bylaw at meetings held on different days.