Casual Legal: A Refresher on Council Procedure

By Ben Throndson
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

The procedural rules in the Municipal Government Act (MGA) apply to all municipal councils in Alberta. This article is intended to refresh elected officials’ and administrators’ knowledge of procedural rules. It will review some potentially overlooked procedural provisions, focusing on scheduling council meetings, voting, and passing bylaws.

Council Meetings (Sections 193-194)

Notice of regularly scheduled council meetings need not be given, but if council changes the date, time, or place of a regularly scheduled meeting, at least 24 hours’ notice must be given of the change to any councillors not present at the meeting at which the change was made, and to the public.

The chief elected official (i.e. the mayor or the reeve) may call a special council meeting whenever they consider it appropriate to do so. This is done by giving at least 24 hours’ notice in writing to each councillor and the public stating the purpose of the meeting and the date, time, and place at which it is to be held.

The chief elected official must call a special council meeting within 14 days after they receive a written request for the meeting, stating the meeting’s purpose, from a majority of the councillors.

No matter other than the one stated in the notice calling the special council meeting may be dealt with at the special meeting, unless the whole council is present and the council agrees to deal with the matter in question.

Voting (Sections 180-186)

A municipal council may only act by way of a resolution or a bylaw. A bylaw or resolution is not valid unless it is passed at a council meeting held in public at which a quorum is present. A councillor attending a council meeting must vote on a matter put to a vote, unless the vote is on a matter where that councillor is required or permitted to abstain under law.

Before council votes, a councillor may request that the vote be recorded. When the vote is recorded, the minutes must show which councillors were present and how they voted. A tie means that the resolution or bylaw is defeated.

Passing Bylaws (Sections 187-191)

Every proposed bylaw must have three distinct and separate readings. A proposed bylaw must not have more than two readings at a council meeting unless the councillors present unanimously agree to consider third reading. Only the title or identifying number of the bylaw has to be read at each reading.

The previous readings of a proposed bylaw are rescinded if the proposed bylaw does not receive third reading within two years after first reading, or it is defeated on second or third reading.

A bylaw is considered passed when it receives third reading and it is signed by the chief elected official and a designated officer under Section 210 of the MGA.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.