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Congratulations on your election to your local municipal council. This information will help you as you enter office to represent residents in your municipality.
In addition to the information below, you may wish to review the latest edition of the Council Member's Handbook prepared by Advisory Services and Municipal Relations. It contains information about what to expect during your term of office, the different roles of a municipal council, how a municipality operates and tips to make your term of office successful.
Council's main role is to provide leadership and to make policy. Council members collectively make decisions about what services a municipality will provide to its citizens, how services will be provided, and at what level. You will rely on the support, advice and assistance of administration during the decision-making process. Once decided, administration is responsible for implementing the policies.
A municipality has powers similar to individuals and corporations that allow them to handle day-to-day operations. This is known as "natural person powers." These powers include the authority to buy and sell land or enter into contracts for services or tendering work. Saskatchewan's municipal legislation is available through the Publications Centre and is separated into The Cities Act, The Municipalities Act and The Northern Municipalities Act, 2010.
The laws made at a municipal level are called bylaws. Actions of council are not effective unless authorized or adopted by bylaw or resolution at an official public meeting.
The administrator ensures council's policies are carried out while administration (i.e., municipal employees) looks after day-to-day operations. The administrator also provides notice of council and committee meetings to members of council and the public.
One of the most important aspects of good municipal governance is an effective working relationship between council and the administrator. He or she should keep council informed and up-to-date on current and pending issues. The experience and knowledge of the administrator and staff may enable you as a council member to do your job more efficiently.
You must take an Oath of Office before assuming any powers, duties or functions as a council member. The Oath of Office is the official declaration or promise that you:
As well, you must complete and sign Public Disclosure Statement within 30 days of being elected. This statement identifies your employer, and lists any land holdings, business interests and contracts you may have. You must review this statement annually and update it when required to ensure its accuracy.
Your Oath of Office and Public Disclosure Statement documents are accessible by the public.
All council decisions must be made at a meeting that is open to the public with a majority of council members present. Anyone can attend these meetings and cannot be expelled except for improper conduct. During these meetings, it is important for you to listen to the other members on council and collectively reach decisions that are in the best interest of your municipality. Individual council members – including the mayor or reeve – do not have the authority to commit the municipality to any expenditure or independently direct the activities of municipal employees.
In addition to performing the duties of a councillor, mayors and reeves have the following responsibilities as set out in section 93 of The Municipalities Act, section 66 of The Cities Act, and section 107 of The Northern Municipalities Act:
A mayor or reeve may also be required to:
A conflict of interest occurs when an elected official's private interests, or a closely connected person's interests may, or may appear to, be affected by a council decision. A financial interest is always a conflict of interest.
If you think you may have a conflict of interest, you must declare the nature and material details of the interest before any discussion occurs. You must leave council chambers and not vote or discuss the matter with other council members before, during or after the matter is being considered or decided.
Citizens correspond with council or municipal administration on a variety of issues. Some of these issues, such as bylaw enforcement, may contain personal information about citizens. There is legislation in place that requires municipalities to protect personal information of citizens, employees and others, as well as ensure this information is not routinely or widely shared.
The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (also referred to as LAFOIP) is an Act respecting a right of access to a local authority's documents and a right of privacy with respect to personal information held by a local authority. A municipality may only collect, use and disclose personal information that is authorized under this legislation.
Under LAFOIP, the mayor or reeve makes all decisions and takes all actions concerning the release of information under this Act, unless this authority has been delegated to a municipal employee.
Section 117 of The Municipalities Act outlines what documents the public has the authority to obtain and inspect from the municipal office, without the need to file a request under LAFOIP.
If a citizen is not satisfied with how their municipality dealt with a complaint about a decision or action, the matter can be raised with Ombudsman Saskatchewan.
The role of the Ombudsman is to promote and protect fairness in the design and delivery of government services. The Ombudsman has authority to investigate complaints relating to administrative actions of the municipality or a municipal employee. After an investigation, the Ombudsman can make recommendations to the municipal council if the findings indicate the municipality:
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