The council of a rural municipality (RM) can restructure its divisions and alter the composition of council to better represent the interests of the ratepayers. A council can also decide to eliminate all division boundaries and have its voters elect council members at large with no reference to divisions.
Section 49 of The Municipalities Act allows the minister to create, eliminate, renumber or alter the boundaries of the divisions in a RM.
Section 49.1 of The Municipalities Act requires all RMs to have a division boundary review policy. This policy is to provide that each division have, as nearly as is reasonably practicable, the same population or number of voters. Each time the division boundaries are reviewed in accordance with the municipality’s policy, council must decide whether to apply to the minister to alter division boundaries.
To initiate a division boundary alteration or change to an election-at-large structure, the council authorizes its administrator to contact the Ministry of Government Relations to obtain assistance with the process.
Once council determines how to alter the division boundaries, it is recommended that some form of public consultation be held to inform their ratepayers of the proposal. This should be followed up with:
- A resolution of council requesting the division boundary alteration;
- An explanation of the reasons for the request;
- A map and description of each new division; and
- An outline of the public consultation undertaken and any public submissions received.
As a result of a division boundary change, there will have to be a municipal election called for each division that is undergoing a change. Orders are normally made effective to coincide with the regular autumn municipal election. Should changes impact divisions that are not in an election year, the order will have to specify a shorter (normally one-year) term of office for those councillors. Accordingly, the Minister's Order will:
- Appoint a returning officer;
- Set the dates for receiving nominations and election day;
- Set the polling places;
- Establish the terms of office of the affected division councillors;
- Set the effective date that the division boundary change will take effect; and
- Confirm the lands of the RM and the boundaries of each division.