Student FAQ

About Municipalities

About People in Municipal Government

About Getting Involved

About Municipalities

Q:What is local government? What is important to understand about local government in Alberta?
A:Most geographic communities in Alberta are governed by a local government, the level of government given the power to make decisions that relate to local issues and services. Local government is also called municipal government and includes government in your city, town or rural area. Municipal government is created by the provinces to provide services. There are other forms of local governments, such as health care authorities and education boards, called local authorities. The provincial government department of Municipal Affairs supports municipal government in Alberta.

Information on local and municipal government can be found on the Alberta Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/. From the home page, click on the link called Municipalities & Communities. What type of information do you find on the home page?

Q:What is a municipality?
A:Municipalities provide essential and non-essential local services such as road maintenance, water services and garbage collection. Municipalities share the characteristics of having defined boundaries, providing residents with ways to make decisions about local issues and being a focus for community activities.

A municipality has a clearly defined boundary and a population. As a means of governance, municipalities can either have officials elected at large or from wards. When a ward system is used, each ward usually has the same number of councillors. The number of wards within a municipality are specified when it is formed, but may be changed by council through a bylaw.

Q:What are the differences between municipalities and communities?
A: Geographic communities can be municipalities; however, they can also be smaller communities within municipalities. There can be many different types of communities that can exist together. These communities may, or may not, exist within the municipality. Communities can provide a sense of belonging and sharing. Municipalities can provide facilities and services, depending on the decisions they make.

Municipalities can include more than one community. Municipalities are areas established by the provincial government with the purpose of providing local government. Communities have many different functions, and can include many different neighbourhoods. Communities are often formed by groups of people with a shared sense of purpose.

Local governments must balance the needs of all people and communities in the municipality. People from different communities that are part of one municipality have to work and make decisions together.

Q:What is the difference between neighbourhoods and communities?
A: Communities can be both urban and rural. A neighbourhood is often described as a geographic area, with identified boundaries, within an urban centre, suburb or country residential subdivision. A community can also be a group of people to which a sense of belonging is felt, such as an ethnic community or a community of musicians.

Explore the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm and click on the urban centres and rural areas you see. Can you find examples of municipalities and communities?

Q:What about quality of life in municipalities?
A: Quality of life can include such factors as family and peer relationships, health, positive activities, contributions that individuals make or a sense of belonging. Individuals define their quality of life in their own ways. Everyone has different factors that influence how they perceive their quality of life. The different factors that influence quality of life of others should be respected.

Explore the landscapes of the city, town and municipal district or county in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Click on the facilities and services in each municipality. How can these services and facilities contribute to the quality of life in a municipality?

Q:How can I find out what type of municipality I live in?
A: There are different types of municipalities. You can find out what type of municipality your community is by visiting different website links.

Read about types of municipalities on the Municipal Affairs webpage found at the link www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_types_of_municipalities_in_alberta.cfm. A list of municipalities can also be found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_profiles.cfm.

Visit the boundary maps of municipalities at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_boundary_maps.cfm and click on each municipality to find your municipality on a map of Alberta.

Visit the profile of municipalities at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_profiles.cfm and click on your municipality to identify the type of municipality you live in.

Explore the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm by clicking on the urban centres and rural areas you see. What are the characteristics of the type of municipality in which you live?

Q:Are there similarities or differences between urban and rural municipalities?
A: Alberta is governed through three general types of municipalities, urban, rural and specialized. However, municipalities should not be thought of as only rural or urban. Many municipalities have areas and influences that combine both urban and rural ways of life. All municipalities, whether urban or rural, have the same responsibilities. Municipalities are all governed by the Municipal Government Act and therefore have the same structures, functions and responsibilities. Differences can exist in the types of decisions councils must make about resources and services they can provide for their municipalities.

Alberta’s urban municipalities consist of areas where there is a concentration of people and buildings. Rural municipalities include areas where there is farming and resource development, as well as areas in which many residents live together, called country residential subdivisions. Specialized municipalities allow urban and rural communities to exist in a single municipal government.

Find out about urban and rural municipalities on the Municipal Affairs webpage found at the link www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_types_of_municipalities_in_alberta.cfm.

Explore the landscapes of the city, town and municipal district or county in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Click on the facilities and services in each municipality. What similarities or differences do you see?

Q:What are some unique characteristics of municipalities in Alberta?
A: Every municipality in Alberta has its own unique characteristics. You can research the characteristics of different municipalities in Alberta by visiting the following websites.

Visit the boundary maps of municipalities at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_boundary_maps.cfm and click on each municipality to find your municipality on a map of Alberta. A short profile will open in a new window when you click on the map. Compare the location of the municipality with a map that shows the physical characteristics of the area.

Visit www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_profiles.cfm. These profiles identify and describe different municipalities in Alberta.

Explore the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Click on the facilities and services in each municipality. What are the characteristics you might expect to find in different municipalities?

The Alberta First website, at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm also provides information that you can use to find out about many Alberta municipalities.

You can also use the Statistics Canada website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm to research and construct your own community profiles.

Q:Where can I find Alberta population statistics that are broken down by municipalities?
A: Official population statistics can be found on the Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_offical_populations.cfm. These statistics include population lists and the population history of municipalities in Alberta from 1913 to 2007.

Q:How can I find out about the responsibilities of municipal governments?
A: Every municipality in Alberta provides services, facilities and programs. The Municipal Government Act requires municipalities to provide a council, chief administrative officer, disaster services, land use bylaw, and property tax and assessment notices. Many other facilities and services are choices that each municipality can make. For example, a municipality is not required to provide a fire department or ambulance service. If a municipality decides to provide certain services, there may be requirements they have to meet. For example, if a municipality provides municipal water, then it must meet certain drinking water standards. Or if a municipality decides to build a road, it does not have to be built with curbs, gutters, sidewalks or lights, unless the municipality chooses to provide these. You can research the roles and responsibilities of different municipalities in Alberta by visiting the following websites.

Visit www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_profiles.cfm.These profiles identify and describe different municipalities in Alberta.

Explore the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Click on the facilities and services in each municipality. What are the services, facilities and programs that municipalities may choose to provide?

The Alberta First website, at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm also provides information that you can use to find out about many Alberta municipalities.

You can also use the Statistics Canada website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm to research and construct your own community profiles.

Q:Are there differences between the responsibilities of municipal governments in Alberta?
A: The roles, responsibilities and functions of municipal governments in Alberta are similar in many ways. However, they differ in the types of decisions and the issues that municipalities face. These differences are often centered on the environment, resources, activities and ways of life in individual municipalities, and are reflected by the places in which people live, work and play.

Explore the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. The municipalities that are represented on this website will give you some general information about what municipalities can provide. Then, consult your municipal office. Use different sources of information, such as the Internet or interviews and meetings with municipal officials to find out more about the responsibilities of municipal governments.

Q:How can I find out what a municipal government needs in order to build facilities and provide services?
A:Municipal governments raise money through taxes and fees for services, such as licensing and utility bills. Some municipalities may also obtain funds through grant programs from the provincial government.

The various facilities and services that municipalities provide all have a cost. Visit your municipality’s website if it has one. Some websites provide budget allocations – find out what percentage of the budget is allocated for different departments. Some municipalities may also provide financial reports from the previous year that can provide information on the cost of providing facilities and services.

Visit www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_profiles.cfm. These profiles provide some financial and budget information from different municipalities in Alberta.

Q:Where can I find information about municipal elections?
A: In a local election, residents of the community vote for individuals who will represent their interests and will work to make decisions about services and facilities that will help build a good quality of life. Local general elections are held every three years, and councillors are expected to serve their communities during this three-year term of office.

Explore the information, documents and legislation relating to municipal elections on the Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_elections.cfm.
Research the electoral process on the Alberta Leaders Candidate Information website, found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm.
Find out how students can participate in federal, provincial and municipal elections at the Student Vote website, found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm.

Explore Participation in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Find the Vote for a Representative! interactive activity by clicking on icon beside the voting booth. What does this activity help you understand about the electoral process?

About People in Municipal Government

Q:How can I find out about the roles in municipal governments?
A: Municipal councils are made up of elected and appointed officials. In municipal government, elected officials are called council members, and include councillors and the mayor or reeve. Other people are hired to work as municipal employees and help the council carry out their work.

The chief elected official is the person who leads and is the public spokesperson for the council. The title of the chief elected official can also be mayor or reeve. The chief elected official:

  • Has the same responsibilities as a councilor.
  • Makes sure the meetings of the council are run according to the procedures and rules that the municipality has established, unless a bylaw assigns that duty to someone else.

The council of a municipality appoints a chief administrative officer. This person is responsible for making sure that the decisions of the council are put into place. The chief administrative officer also keeps the council informed about the way the municipality is operating. This person makes sure that the day-to-day functions of the municipal government are carried out. The council and the chief administrative officer work together to keep each other informed. The council depends on the chief administrative officer to give it information so that it can make informed decisions.

Explore the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Find the municipal offices in each municipality. What are the responsibilities that the individuals in the municipal office have?

Q:Where can I find a list of municipal officials?
A: A list of Municipal Officials for every municipality in Alberta can be found on the Municipal Affairs website. Click on Municipal Officials Search at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_officials_search.cfm and then click where indicated to download the Municipal Officials List. Find out who the municipal officials are in your municipality.

Q:How are councillors elected?
A:Councillors are elected by residents who are eligible to vote. The eligible voters are called electors. Councillors can be elected at-large, which means they are elected by all eligible voters in the municipality. Or they can be elected in a ward by the electors in a specific area. A councillor has the following responsibilities:

  • To consider the well being and interests of the municipality as a whole.
  • To bring anything that would make the municipality a better place to live to the attention of the council.
  • To help develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality.
  • To participate in council meetings and committee meetings.
  • To stay informed about the operation or administration of the municipality.
  • To keep in confidence, or keep private, matters discussed in private at a council or council committee meeting until discussed at a meeting held in public.

Explore Participation in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Find the Vote for a Representative! interactive activity by clicking on the voting booth. What influenced your vote?

About Getting Involved

Q:What should I know about the ways decisions are made in municipal governments?
A: In a democracy, everyone has a voice in decision-making. The decision-making process in a municipality can often be seen in council meetings or committee meetings. Most decision-making is organized around a process that follows steps like the ones below:

  • Setting an agenda to establish what will be discussed. Agendas usually address current issues, when citizens or residents can present their views to council and the topics that should be discussed.
  • Developing documents. These documents usually contain the question or issues that need a decision, the topic, its background or history, the costs and benefits and references to policies.
  • Holding meetings. A council meeting is a forum for debate and discussion about municipal matters.

These steps help municipalities make informed decisions about policies, bylaws, planning and projects.

Go to the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Find the decision-making storyline in each of the three municipalities by clicking on the red star icon. Follow the decision-making process that the student in each municipality used. How did this decision-making process compare to the one used by municipalities?

Q:What are some ways of participating and taking action?
A: There are many different ways to get involved in issues and decisions. There can be various ways that you may choose to take action, such as:

  • Attend a local, community or municipal council meeting to observe general proceedings.
  • Invite a councillor to the school or a community gathering to talk about an issue.
  • Attend council meetings when an issue is under discussion or consideration.
  • Visit the municipal office to talk to municipal officials and staff about an issue.
  • Provide input when the municipality is making a decision, for example by participating in an opinion survey or attending an open house.
  • Volunteer to sit on a municipal committee that has the job of providing a recommendation to council.
  • Write a letter to a municipal representative or the editor of the local media.
  • Have discussions with community members.
  • Organize a public awareness campaign to inform others about the issue.
  • Join or form your own community or special interest group.
  • Make a presentation to the council, a committee or community members.
  • Organize an informal petition
  • Create a press release or public service announcement.
  • Create displays for the community or municipality.

The picture book Stone Soup (August House Publishers) provides a story that can help you think about why participation is important. An online version can be found at www.municipalaffairs.drpuat.gov.ab.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm (Tamarack Community).

Explore Participation in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Find the Express Your Opinion! interactive activity by clicking on the student with a sign. What different perspectives influence the decision in this issue?

Go to the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Find the decision-making storyline in each of the three municipalities by clicking on the red star icon .  Follow the decision-making process that the student in each municipality used. How did each student participate and take action?

Q:If I could attend a municipal council meeting, what should I know?
A: There are different types of meetings in a municipality that you may have the opportunity to attend:

  • Committee meeting (those open to the public).
  • council meeting
  • Community or town hall meeting.
  • Public information session.
  • Public input session.

Some municipalities may request public input on their municipal website. This can provide you with an opportunity to share your opinions with municipal officials. Some municipal councils may also post council meeting packages on their websites. Visit www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_profiles.cfm. These profiles may include the websites of municipalities in Alberta. If you can attend a meeting, plan to find answers to questions such as the following:

  • What was the purpose of the meeting? Are these types of meetings held on a regular basis?
  • Did this meeting deal with a specific concern or issue? What was this issue?
  • Who was present at this meeting? What were their roles?
  • How were decisions made at this meeting?
  • What was the outcome of the decisions made at the meeting?
  • Are there any opportunities to have further input? What might these be?

After the meeting, write a letter to your municipal government office, expressing your thanks and sharing what you have learned about local government.
Go to the landscape maps in the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Find the decision-making storyline in each of the three municipalities by clicking on the red star icon .  Follow the decision-making process that the student in each municipality used. How did each student participate in a council meeting?

If you cannot attend a council meeting, then take a virtual tour of a municipal office to learn about the types of meetings and activities that happen there. For example, visit the City of Edmonton virtual tour at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm. The City of Calgary can be visited at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm. Click on City Hall, then About Calgary, then Civic Complex to access the Civic Complex Virtual Tour.

Q:Can I contact a municipal office?
A: You should check with your teacher before you contact your municipal office as part of any school project or activity. You can find out who would be best to contact by using the Municipal Officials Search. Click on Municipal Officials Search at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_officials_search.cfm and then click where indicated to download the Municipal Officials List.

  • Date modified: 2016-12-22