Government, Local

GOVERNMENT, LOCAL, provides and maintains essential services at the community level. Services include water, sewage, garbage collection, roads and sidewalks, street lighting, fire and police and may include LIBRARIES, parks and recreational facilities.

Communities are organized as either municipalities or regional districts. There are 4 types of municipalities: villages, with population under 2,500; towns, 2,501–5,000; cities, more than 5,000; and district municipalities, which are large geographic areas with low population. (Villages and towns may grow larger without altering their corporate status.) In 2004 BC had 43 cities, 52 districts, 15 towns and 42 villages. About 83% of the population lives within municipalities, though municipalities account for less than 1% of the total land area in the province. There is also one Indian government district at SECHELT.

In the late 1960s, REGIONAL DISTRICTS were created to deliver services to the approximately 15% of the population living outside municipal areas, and to allow municipalities to provide shared services. There are 28 regional districts, ranging from the GREATER VANCOUVER REGIONAL DISTRICT (pop 2 million), to the Central Coast Regional District (pop 3,780). The largest in area is Peace River, 120,000 sq km.

The provincial Ministry of Community Services is responsible for the Municipal Act, which regulates the creation and operation of local government. At the beginning of 2013 the province created a new position, the auditor general for local government, to oversee the operations of cities, municipalities and regional districts. The inaugural appointee was chartered accountant Basia Ruta.

Municipalities are governed by mayors and elected councils. Regional district boards are partly elected, partly appointed by municipalities within the district from among their elected officers. Property taxes provide about 48% of the money local government uses to pay for its services. The rest comes from grants from other levels of government (about 6.5%) and special user charges.
Reading: Robert L. Bish, Local Government in British Columbia, 2nd ed, 1990.