Approval of the electors is required by law when a decision of the local government may have a significant impact on the community over the longer term. Examples of decisions that require the approval of the electors include:
- long-term borrowing (loan authorization);
- changes to municipal boundaries;
- municipal classification changes (e.g. change from township to city); and
- removing the reservation or dedication from a piece of property (e.g. park, public square, heritage site).
There are two ways under the Community Charter to obtain the approval of the electors:
1. Assent Voting
Historically referred to as a referendum, assent of the electors is obtained through an election-like process, adhering to the rules and regulations set out in the Local Government Act [Part 4 – Assent Voting] and Council’s General Election and other Voting Bylaw No. 2386, 2018. If the timing is appropriate, a referendum question may be included in voting during a General Local Election due to the fact that they require much of the same preparation and cost as a municipal election.
2. Alternative Approval Process
The Alternative Approval Process (AAP) is a less costly and less time-consuming way of asking the electorate’s permission to proceed with a project that requires elector approval. Instead of asking the entire electorate to vote on a matter, the City seeks opposition votes only through a petition process managed by the Corporate Officer. If less than 10% of the electors fill out the response form in opposition to the initiative, then Council is deemed to have the approval of the electors and may proceed with the initiative. If the petition process shows that 10% or more of the electors are opposed to the action, then approval of the electors is not obtained, at which point Council would have the option to move to an assent vote (within 80 days of the close of the AAP) if they still wished to proceed with the initiative.
AAPs help local governments better understand whether or not the community views a particular matter, such as disposing of parkland or granting a long-term heritage property tax exemption, as "significant" and if the matter then warrants being taken to an assent vote for broader citizen engagement.
Who is eligible to participate in an AAP?
Any individual who qualifies as a resident elector or non-resident property elector within the area affected by the subject matter of the AAP is eligible to participate in the AAP. Usually an AAP is City-wide, but it’s possible that it could be limited to a smaller area of electors.
A resident elector who is eligible to participate in an AAP:
• is 18 years of age or older;
• is a Canadian citizen;
• has lived in British Columbia for at least six months;
• has lived in the affected area (e.g. Pitt Meadows) for at least 30 days;
• is not disqualified by law from voting in local elections.
A non-resident property elector is an individual that does not live in the affected jurisdiction but is entitled to sign an elector response form because they own property in that jurisdiction. A non-resident property elector must be:
• 18 years of age or older;
• a Canadian citizen;
• a resident of British Columbia for at least the past six months;
• a property owner in the affected area (e.g. Pitt Meadows) for at least the past 30 days;
• not disqualified by law from voting in local elections.
Note: Only one non-resident property elector may sign an elector response form per property, regardless of how many people own the property; and, that owner must have the written consent of a majority of the other property owner(s) to sign the response form on their behalf. Property owned in whole or in part by a corporation does not qualify under the nonresident property elector provisions.
What happens during an AAP?
Council will direct staff at an open meeting to proceed with obtaining the approval of the electors through an AAP. This will include approval of the proposed advertising dates for the AAP, the proposed deadline for receipt of responses, the estimated number of eligible electors and the proposed elector response form. Staff will then make the response forms available to the electors for a minimum of 30 days during which time eligible electors may fill them out and submit them to the Corporate Officer by the deadline. Once the period for submitting elector response forms has concluded, the Corportate Officer will present the results of the AAP to Council at an open meeting, confirming whether approval of the electors was obtained.
How are residents notified of an AAP?
AAPs must be advertised in the newspaper at least twice. Depending on the subject matter of the AAP, there may be additional communications. Council's direction to staff to administer an AAP will also be captured in Council minutes which are posted to the Council Meetings webpage after each meeting.
How do I get involved in an AAP?
Once an AAP starts, the response forms will be made available online, at City Hall, or by contacting the City's Corporate Officer. If you are in support of the City initiative that is the subject of the AAP, there is no action required. Only electors who are opposed to the project need to fill out the elector response form.
Completed forms must be delivered to the Corporate Officer by the AAP deadline in order to be counted. The deadline will be clearly noted on both the AAP notice and the Elector Response Form.