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2021 June

Municipalities Today is a web-based newsletter published monthly by the Ministry of Government Relations. It lists deadlines, training opportunities, services and programs that may be of interest to Saskatchewan municipal administrators.

View past editions of Municipalities Today by visiting Publications Saskatchewan.

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1. Municipal Administrators' Corner

Dangerous Animals

Advisory Services receives numerous inquiries from the public, administrators and council with respect to dangerous animals. Common questions are "What can we do about an animal that is dangerous?" or "Can the municipality declare my animal dangerous?"

Sections 374 - 380.2 of The Municipalities Act and Sections 395 - 401 of The Northern Municipalities Act, 2010 address dangerous animals and outlines the process to have an animal declared dangerous. A judge is the only person who has the authority to declare an animal dangerous. If anyone, including a municipality, believes an animal is dangerous, they are required to apply to the courts to have a judge determine whether the animal is dangerous. The animal may be declared dangerous if the judge is satisfied on reasonable grounds that:

  • The animal, without provocation, in a vicious or menacing manner, chased or approached a person or domestic animal in an apparent attitude of attack;
  • The animal has a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack without provocation, to cause injury or to otherwise threaten the safety of persons or domestic animals;
  • The animal has, without provocation, bitten, inflicted injury, assaulted or otherwise attacked a person or domestic animal; or
  • The animal is owned primarily or in part for the purpose of fighting or is trained for fighting.

If a judge declares the animal dangerous, they may issue an order to the owner. Some of the legislated measures a judge may require an owner to comply with include:

  • If the animal is removed from its enclosure, the animal must wear a muzzle and be on leash;
  • Requiring the animal to be spayed or neutered; or
  • Requiring the owner to display a sign on their property warning of the presence of a dangerous animal.

One of the recent amendments to the Act, section 380.1, allows for council to pass a bylaw concerning animal control. Council has the ability to pass a bylaw on any or all of the following matters:

  • Persons who own or harbour animals;
  • The number or type of animals owned or harboured by any person;
  • Animals being at large;
  • Persons who permit animals to be at large; and
  • The seizing, impounding, destruction or other disposition of animals found at large.

Check out our Animal Control page for more information.

Resources

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2. New material for Conflict of Interest

As an elected member of council, do you know what to do when you think you have a conflict of interest? Are you a member of the public who thinks a council member might have a conflict of interest and want to know what your options are? Are you an administrator who is assisting a council member in handling a potential conflict of interest? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the new material by the Ministry of Government Relations on conflict of interest is for you!

The ministry updated its online information and materials concerning conflict of interest. These materials reflect the most recent changes to legislation, which aligns the definition of a conflict of interest closer with common law.

The ministry also updated its Conflict of Interest Frequently Asked Questions and has created three NEW interactive modules:

  • Module 1: What is a conflict of interest?
  • Module 2: What do you, as an elected official, do if you have a conflict of interest?
  • Module 3: Supporting documents for conflict of interest

These 20-minute modules can be found on the Conflict of Interest Resources page and the Council Training page. While they are created for use by municipal elected officials, municipal administrators and the public may also find them helpful. In each module, participants have the opportunity to take a short quiz, and if passed, a certificate will be generated. This certificate could be used by council members to signal their commitment to good governance and the proper handling of conflicts of interest in their municipality. Please note the Ministry does not have or keep a copy of this certificate.

If you have further questions about municipal conflict of interest, please contact a municipal advisor at 306-787-2680 or by emailing muninfo@gov.sk.ca.

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3. Submission of 2020 Financial Statements – Extension of Time

If your municipality anticipates they will be unable to submit their 2020 financial statement to the minister by July 1, 2021 (September 1, 2021, if a city), your council may pass an extension of time bylaw for financial statements.

If your municipality is going to pass a bylaw for extending the time of submission to the ministry:

  • It must be passed within 30 days after the time fixed pursuant to legislation has expired – no later than July 31, 2021 (October 1, 2021, if a city).
  • It may extend the time fixed by legislation by no more than 90 days – no later than September 29, 2021 (November 30, 2021, if a city).

A certified copy of the bylaw, the reason for submitting a late financial statement and the expected date the financial statement will be submitted to the minister, should be emailed to financialstatements@gov.sk.ca.

If you need more information regarding this bylaw, contact financialstatements@gov.sk.ca.

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4. Public Accounts Consultation

Public accounts will be required for all municipalities in Saskatchewan in the future, as they have been for cities for more than 30 years. In 2020, amendments to municipal legislation added regulatory authority to establish public accounts for all municipalities. These sections of the legislation will be proclaimed after regulations have been developed.

The Ministry of Government Relations is consulting on the regulations and welcomes your feedback and input on this important issue. Visit the Municipal Public Accounts Consultation page to find a discussion paper that presents options on what information could be reported and reporting thresholds, and asks for your views.

Please read the discussion paper and submit your feedback through the survey link. The survey closes on June 30, 2021.

For more information, please email Regs@gov.sk.ca.

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5. Your feedback from the 2020 Post-Election Survey

Following the 2020 general municipal elections, the Ministry of Government Relations undertook its typical practice of surveying municipalities and school boards regarding their election experiences.

The 2020 Post-Election Survey included ten questions on voter turnout, the use of advance voting, the impact of COVID-19 and inclement weather, as well as the usefulness of resources provided by the Ministry and Elections Saskatchewan.

In total, 448 municipalities participated in the survey – approximately 32 per cent of the municipalities in the province. Twelve school divisions also responded to the survey.

Some key findings from the survey include:

  • The average of the voter turnout reported in 2020 was 45 per cent;
  • 76 per cent of survey respondents used advance polls in 2020; half of those respondents noted an increase in the number of voters at advance polls over 2016;
  • 32 per cent of respondents held advance polls for the first time in 2020;
  • 19 per cent of respondents used mail-in ballots; and
  • 32 per cent of votes counted were from advance voting (e.g. advance poll, mail-in ballot).

Municipalities also shared their experiences and challenges conducting the 2020 municipal election with COVID-19 and inclement weather on election day, and provided comments on the election resources provided by the ministry and Chief Electoral Officer.

Read the full 2020 Post-Election Survey Report and an infographic highlighting key results.

This report will serve as the starting point for discussion of potential changes to local election processes, legislation and regulations, and ministry election resources in the coming years.

Thank you to all local election officials who took the time to complete the survey and for working hard to hold safe elections.

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6. Saskatchewan's new Construction Code Act

The Construction Code Act (CCA) received third reading in the Legislative Assembly in May and is expected to be proclaimed on January 1, 2022. The CCA will replace The Uniform Building and Accessibility Standards Act as the legislation governing the administration and enforcement of construction standards in Saskatchewan, including building, energy and plumbing codes.

The new Act contains a number of changes that will impact municipalities, including:

  • allowing municipalities to register building official orders on the land registry of the building;
  • prescribing a default building bylaw which applies to any municipality that does not have an approved building bylaw;
  • requiring municipalities to annually provide the name and licence number of appointed building officials to the chief codes administrator;
  • providing the ability for municipalities to charge deposits or bonds in connection with a building permit application, subject to the regulations; and,
  • allowing municipalities to add costs and expenses to enforce the CCA to a building's property taxes.

Consultations on regulations under the CCA will begin this summer; additional information on the new Act will be provided this fall. It is anticipated a number of online briefing sessions will be held, along with a stand-alone webinar, to ensure municipalities have an opportunity to learn about the CCA and how it can be effectively utilized.

For more information, please contact Building and Technical Standards at 306-787-4113 or at btstandards@gov.sk.ca.

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7. Looking for local improvements

Government Relations would like to hear from you if you have used The Local Improvements Act, 1993 to fund municipal capital works at any time in the last ten or so years.

The Act allows for special levies on specific properties in a municipality benefiting from a proposed work. They are used to fix, upgrade or maintain a wide range of infrastructure works or services from sidewalks to back alleys.

If your municipality has used the Act or is planning to undertake a local improvement under the Act, please send your contact information to regs@gov.sk.ca. The Ministry is exploring whether to amend this Act in the future and would like to hear from municipalities who have experience with it.

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8. RM review of division boundaries

You may be wondering why rural municipalities (RMs) are now required to review division boundaries. It stems from a decision in Canada's Supreme Court to uphold the principle of "relative effectiveness" and is the reason why boundaries of constituencies and wards in cities, towns and villages require regular review between elections.

In many cases, RM divisions have not changed since the early 1900s and still have their regular, square-like boundaries. Yet their population has changed over time, with some growth concentrated in a few key areas rather than being spread out evenly between divisions. That means the weight of one person's vote, or how much say one person has in who is elected, may be very different depending on where they live or own property in the RM.

Several RMs – like the RM of Corman Park, RM of Aberdeen and RM of Edenwold – have conducted public reviews of their division populations. They adjusted their boundaries as a result of finding significant variance in their populations.

While it is easy to see why everyone's vote should count, Government Relations has heard many different reactions to the new policy requirement.

  • You may not have heard any complaints about your division boundaries, and think that they don't need to be changed.
    The decision on whether or not to alter division boundaries is up to council, after they have received the report from the review and made the results public. Public awareness of the facts about the distribution of population or voters between divisions is a great way to begin the conversation about whether the status quo is working.

    Since a policy is required, the policy should provide the basis for council's decision. Best practice would be to set out the acceptable variance for population or number of voters in the policy, and which factors may alter that variance and by how much.
  • Some are concerned that certain groups of people might gain too much influence or lose their influence entirely if boundaries are redrawn to balance populations.
    Everyone deserves a vote that counts, but courts have also recognized that relative effectiveness does not mean equality. Some factors, such as geographic characteristics, history, and communities of interest, may justify unequal representation within reasonable limits.

    While there are no legislative requirements to balance or alter division populations, councils need to be aware of where imbalances exist. The policy adopted by council will require thoughtful consideration of whether current imbalances are justified and within reasonable limits, and what steps should be taken to achieve effective representation.
  • There are no plans to provide a template or sample policy.
    This is YOUR policy, and should reflect your RM's needs, complexity, schedule, etc. There are some elements that need to be addressed in the policy according to the legislation, and it is important to understand that council has a great deal of discretion regarding how these matters are addressed.

    Here is a list of what the policy must include, with some examples:

    • Who will do the review (council, a council committee, administration, consultant or other third party, etc.) and how they will operate and be remunerated (if at all);
    • Events that trigger a review (i.e. a general election, by-election, any restructuring, every four years, etc.);
    • Additional factors to be considered to determine if a variance in population or number of voters is acceptable (i.e. seasonal populations, number of properties, natural geographic boundaries and physical features, location of hamlets, rates of growth, accessibility of region, communities of interest, Hutterian and other developments, special service areas, etc.);
    • Reporting of recommendations to council (i.e. special meeting, regular meeting, form of report);
    • The maximum time frame in which to complete a review (start and end dates for review, deadline to submit final report to council, etc.);
    • Requirements to make the report of the council committee or body available for public inspection and to give public notice of the report (i.e. post on website, send notices to residents, etc.); and
    • Any other matters council considers necessary (i.e. public consultation/meetings to be conducted by the review body).
  • If you have a small population, it may be impossible to have the same number of people in each division. (For example, with 114 people in 4 divisions, you would need 28.5 people per division.)
    It is important to note that unlike wards in cities and urban municipalities and provincial and federal constituencies, there are no legislated limits to the variance in RM divisions and no requirements to rebalance or adjust as a result of a review.

    In some cases, especially when populations are small, council may decide to not to have a review policy at all, which would require the RM to remove divisions and hold elections at large.
  • Regularly reviewing division populations could take significant time and resources, and council may decide not to have a policy.
    In that case, the RM must have elections at large instead. With no divisions, each person's vote counts the same. The reeve and all council members can be from anywhere in the RM, and everyone would vote for the same pool of candidates.

    Your municipality would pass an election bylaw pursuant to subsection 89(2) of The Municipalities Act to move to elections at large, including any necessary modifications and transitional measures. The election provisions and terms of office for council members set out in The Local Government Election Act, 2015 (LGEA), would apply, and next time the LGEA is amended government will consider additional amendments to provide for RMs who have moved to an election at large system.

    When choosing to move to elections at large, the municipality must apply to the ministry to remove the division boundaries, which is done by Minister's Order and advertised in The Gazette. More information about division boundary changes can be found under Municipal Administration.

If your municipality has additional questions or concerns, please contact Advisory Services.

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9. Who do you call?

Do you know who to call when you have a question about a zoning bylaw? What about a procurement process? The table below will assist municipal administrators and elected council members direct their call to get the answer they need.

Branch/Office Name Responsibility Contact Information
Access and Privacy Branch
(Ministry of Justice)
Responsible for The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Inquiry Line: 306-798-0222
Email: accessprivacyjustice@gov.sk.ca
Advisory Services and Municipal Relations
(Ministry of Government Relations)
Manage municipal mergers or structural changes, track election results, co-ordinate and facilitate strategic priorities such as Municipal Revenue Sharing (MRS) eligibility requirements, co-ordinate monitoring municipal compliance, and develop resources. Municipal Advisor Inquiry Line: 306-787-2680
Email: muninfo@gov.sk.ca

MRS eligibility requirements or non-compliance information email: grcompliance@gov.sk.ca
Building and Technical Standards
(Ministry of Government Relations)
Responsible for the codes and standards that apply to the construction, renovation and the fire safe operation of buildings. Advise, review and approve municipal building bylaws. Inquiry line: 306-787-4113
Email: btstandards@gov.sk.ca 
Community Planning
(Ministry of Government Relations)
Provide legislative advice about development and land use planning (i.e. Zoning Bylaw and Official Community Plan). Responsible for questions related to public notice and public hearing requirement for development permit applications, servicing agreements and development levy agreements. Regina Inquiry Line: 
306-787-2725
Saskatoon Inquiry Line: 
306-933-6937
Email: muninfo@gov.sk.ca
Employment Standards
(Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety)
Responsible for The Saskatchewan Employment Act. Inquiry Line: 1-800-667-1783
Email: employmentstandards@gov.sk.ca
Municipal Infrastructure and Finance
(Ministry of Government Relations)
Responsible for the mill rate return, audited financial statements and administering grant programs such as MRS, Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) and Federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF). Inquiry Line: 306-787-1262
GTF Email: gastax@gov.sk.ca
Prov. Grants Email: mifprovgrants@gov.sk.ca
ICIP Email: infra@gov.sk.ca
Occupational Health and Safety Division
(Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety)
Responsible for The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020. Inquiry Line: 1-800-567-7233
Email: ohs.general@gov.sk.ca
Policy and Program Services
(Ministry of Government Relations)
Research and develop legislative policy for amendment to various acts. Review tax policy and assessment in consideration to percentage of value and education mill rate. Responsible for Education Property Tax (EPT). EPT Technical, administrative and legislative questions: 
306-787-2653
Saskatchewan Municipal Board Assessment appeals and approvals for water and sewer rates, borrowing, establishing debt limit, and investing surplus. Inquiry Line: 306-787-6221
Email: info@smb.gov.sk.ca
Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency Emergency management and fire safety, wildfire management and 911 dispatching. Inquiry Line: 1-800-667-9660
Email: spsa@gov.sk.ca
Stakeholder Relations and Priority Saskatchewan (Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement) For all aspects of the procurement and purchasing lifecycle. Dustin Austman: 306-529-4108
John Lax: 306-798-4454
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10. Provide input into Canada's first National Infrastructure Assessment

The Government of Canada released an Engagement Paper on the country's first National Infrastructure Assessment: "Building the Canada We Want in 2050."

The Engagement Paper sets out the purpose and benefits of this undertaking. The federal government is seeking input from the public, Indigenous peoples, provinces, territories, municipalities and stakeholders on three main priorities of the assessment discussed in the paper:

  • Assessing Canada's infrastructure needs and establishing a long-term vision;
  • Improving co-ordination among infrastructure owners and funders; and
  • Determining the best ways to fund and finance infrastructure.

Please provide your written feedback (10 pages or less) before June 30, 2021 using one of the methods below:

Email: infc.info.infc@canada.ca

Mail:

Infrastructure Canada
Communications
180 Kent Street, Suite 1100
Ottawa, ON K1P 0B6

For more information about the National Infrastructure Assessment, the Engagement Paper or next steps, visit Infrastructure Canada.

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