COUNCIL AND CITIZENSHIP
Municipal Government is considered the grassroots level of government because it affects most aspects of our daily lives.
The services provided by municipal government are predominately financed through taxation on all the rateable property in the municipality. This is the basis for taxation. But, why taxes?
As citizens, we should be aware that it is our tax dollars collectively that finance the services available through municipal government. Fire protection, road maintenance, animal control, planning and zoning, recreation and culture, municipal water and sewer systems and waste management are some of the services provided through our tax dollars.
The Municipal Council, having been elected by the eligible voters of the Municipality, is the body that manages the tax dollars and decides the priority of which services to provide using the available funds. This is a very onerous task and invariably leads to public criticism. The Council has a four year mandate. The Clerk of the municipality administers Council’s policies and must advise Council of the scope of its authority as provided by the Municipal Act.
The most important aspect of local government is citizenship. Public participation is an essential tool which a Council can utilize for an effective administration. Public involvement in committees of Council provide a broad spectrum of expertise to help a Council make decisions. In this way, Council is also kept abreast of public opinion on contentious issues.
One of the major tools available to a Council in implementing its decisions is by way of enacting by-laws. The Municipal Act provides a wide scope of authority to a municipality for self-government. The by-laws passed by a Council are only enforceable within the boundaries of the municipality. By-laws are passed establishing policies and regulations in order to provide citizens with protection and assurance of safe and comfortable daily lives. Often, a Council is criticized for passing certain by-laws because people feel that their freedoms are being limited. These types of by-laws seem to be very restrictive because they spell out specific limitations of certain activities in specified areas. When viewed objectively, however, these by-laws can be considered a protection. It may prevent a chemical plant, for example, from being built in the middle of a residential subdivision. Certain by-laws cannot be passed without extensive public participation. Public meetings are required before they can be adopted by Council. The reason for this is to ensure that individual rights are not removed with the passing of by-laws. There is a very efficient regulatory machine in place to assure that citizens’ individual rights are being upheld.