Teacher FAQs

About Municipalities

About People in Municipal Government

About Involving Students with Municipal Government

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, whether you live in a city, town, village or rural area. Municipal government is created by the provinces to provide local services. There are other forms of local governments, such as health care authorities and education boards, but the department of Municipal Affairs provides resources and expertise to municipalities, boards and associations that support municipalities.

Information on local and municipal government is provided on the Alberta Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca by clicking on the link called Municipalities & Communities. Students are introduced to the concept of local government in Section 1: Get Personal of the Building Communities Through Local Government resources. It is important that students understand that local government really refers to local authorities, which include municipal authorities (municipalities, improvement districts and special areas), regional health authorities, regional services commissions and boards of trustees of a district or division as defined in the School Act.

Q:What is a municipality?
A:A municipality is an administrative entity composed of a clearly defined boundary and the population within it. As a means of governance, municipalities can either have officials elected at-large or from wards, which divide the municipality into more manageable sections. 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.

Municipalities provide essential and non-essential local services such as road maintenance, water and sewer 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.

In municipalities, there are also other local authorities, such as health care authorities and school boards. Municipal Affairs works in partnership with Alberta’s municipalities to ensure Albertans live in safe and sustainable communities, and are served by open, effective and accountable governments. Section 1: Get Personal in the Building Communities Through Local Government resource provides information and student activities that introduce the concepts of municipal government and municipalities.

Q:How can I find out more about municipalities and municipal government?
A:Information and links are provided on the Municipal Affairs website at the link www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_what_are_municipalities.cfm. Section 1: Get Personal in the Building Communities Through Local Government resource provides information and student activities that encourage students to explore what a municipality is, as well as the purposes of municipal government. Teacher backgrounders in this section provide additional information on the purposes and responsibilities of municipalities and municipal government.

Q:Are communities and municipalities the same thing?
A:Students are introduced to the concept of community in the Kindergarten Social Studies program. In the program of studies, community is defined as “a group of people with commonalities that may include culture, language, values and beliefs, interests, practices and ways of life, history, and/or geographically defined shared space.” (Kindergarten to Grade 3 Social Studies Program of Studies (2005): p. 6.). The Social Studies Program of Studies can be accessed on Alberta Education’s website at the link www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm.

Section 1: Get Personal of the Building Communities Through Local Government resources uses this definition to encourage students to explore the relationship between communities and municipal government. Municipalities are administrative entities comprised of a clearly defined boundary and the population within it. Information on the community based initiatives that Municipal Affairs supports can be accessed on the link www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_community_services.cfm.

Q:Where can I find a complete list of all municipalities in Alberta?
A: A complete list of municipalities can be found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_profiles.cfm. Use this list to provide students with options for exploring different types of municipalities in Alberta, or to select municipalities to research in further depth. Section 2: A Good Place to Live in the Building Communities Through Local Government resource focuses on quality of life and the roles and responsibilities of municipal government. Students would find the list of municipalities useful for activities in this section. A student version of the Municipal Profiles is available at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_profiles.cfm.

Q:Where can I access a map that shows all municipalities in Alberta?
A: Municipal Affairs provides a map of Alberta that shows municipal boundaries. This map can be accessed at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_boundary_maps.cfm. A full colour poster size map is also provided with the Building Communities Through Local Government resources and can be accessed in PDF format at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/documents/teachDoc(Poster).zip. Section 2: A Good Place to Live also provides a student resource with a map that shows municipal boundaries.

Q:Where can I find detailed information about specific municipalities in Alberta?
A: Municipal Affairs provides a number of links with detailed information on municipalities and municipal government. Municipal profiles can be accessed in two ways:

The Municipal Excellence Network provides a practice catalogue with a number of examples and some online documents that can be accessed regarding practices developed by Alberta municipalities at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm. A specific search link is found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm. This information may be useful to provide students with additional insights into how municipalities operate and make decisions. Section 2: A Good Place to Live and Section 3: Make Connections in the Building Communities Through Local Government resource encourages students to explore and compare the structures, functions, roles and responsibilities of municipal governments.

The Alberta First website, at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm provides detailed profiles on many Alberta municipalities. Statistics Canada also provides a link that allows students to research and construct community profiles, at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm Students may find some useful information on Alberta municipalities on this site.

Q:How can I find out about different types of municipalities (e.g., city, town, village, municipal district)?
A: The provincial legislation which governs the activities of municipalities is the Municipal Government Act (MGA). Under the MGA, a municipality means a city, town, village, summer village, municipal district or county or specialized area. A list and description of the different types of municipalities, including a description of urban and rural characteristics, can be accessed at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_types_of_municipalities_in_alberta.cfm. This webpage also provides links to municipal associations: Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and the Special Areas websites, where more information can be found.

Students research different types of municipalities in Section 1: Get Personal and explore the characteristics that make them urban and rural. The Building Communities Through Local Government student website also provides information on different types of municipalities and other local authorities – visit the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm to explore visual maps of different municipalities. These links may be helpful as students find out what type of municipality they live in as well as develop understandings about the responsibilities, structures and functions that all municipalities share.

Q:Where can I find Alberta population statistics that are broken down by municipalities, cities or regional districts?
A: Official population statistics can be accessed 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. Students may find these statistics useful in exploring how their own municipality’s population has changed. Students focus on the characteristics of their municipalities in Section 2: A Good Place to Live of the Building Communities Through Local Government resource.

Q:Are there similarities or differences between urban and rural municipalities?
A: Municipalities are often thought of as urban or rural. However, current municipalities in Alberta go beyond that understanding. Many municipalities have areas and influences that combine both urban and rural ways of life. The designation “rural” should not be interpreted to only include farm or resource based areas. Some rural municipalities/counties contain substantial residential populations.

Urban municipalities (cities, towns, villages, summer villages) are in areas where the majority of buildings are on parcels of land smaller than 1 850 square metres. Municipal districts are in areas in which a majority of the buildings used as dwellings are on parcels of land with an area of at least 1 850 square metres.

The concepts of urban and rural municipalities are discussed in Section 1: Get Personal. Additional information about the three general types of municipalities, urban, rural and specialized can be accessed at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_types_of_municipalities_in_alberta.cfm. For detailed information and maps about particular municipalities, check the Municipal Profiles page at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_profiles.cfm.

Q:What is important to know about the facilities and services that municipalities must provide, and those that they have choices in providing?
A:The Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires municipalities to provide a council, chief administrative officer, disaster services, a 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 conditions imposed to meet safety requirements. 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. The MGA can be accessed at http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_acts_&_regulations.cfm.

Detailed information on the ways that municipalities can carry out their responsibilities, often through departments, is provided in Section 2: A Good Place to Live. Section 3: Make Connections provides information and activities about roles in a municipal government in both students’ activities and detailed Teacher Backgrounders. The Building Communities Through Local Government Trading Cards also provide information on roles and responsibilities of municipal governments.

Q:How can I access the Municipal Government Act?
A:The Municipal Government Act (MGA) defines the broad powers or general jurisdiction of municipalities. For example, municipalities have the authority to regulate the activities of the public. These rules are found in municipal bylaws and resolutions. Bylaws and resolutions are passed by council under the authority established by the MGA. The council uses resolutions as a way to make decisions when a bylaw is not required.

The legislated requirements for the formation of a municipality can be found in sections 77 through 84 of the MGA. The MGA can be accessed on the Alberta Queen's Printer website at www.qp.alberta.ca . Other acts related to local government can also be accessed on this link.

Q:Where can I find information about municipal election processes?
A: Information on municipal elections and electoral procedures are provided on the Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_elections.cfm. The Local Authorities Election Act establishes guidelines for municipal elections, including those that candidates must follow, and is also available as a link on this webpage. The Alberta Leaders Candidate Information website, found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm, also provides information on the local election process in Alberta.

Student resources that provide suggestions for holding a classroom election are included in Appendix B: Tools and Strategies for Learning About Municipal Governments. Students explore how campaigning rules are part of the accountability that elected representatives have to the people they represent. The Building Communities Through Local Government student website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm also provides a simulation that asks students to vote for a representative. Students can access the Vote for a Representative! interactive activity through the Participation feature on the website. Information and instructions for the activity are provided when students click on the icon beside the character with the voting booth.

The Student Vote website, found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm, provides information and resources for involving students in voting simulations that run parallel to federal, provincial and some municipal elections.

Students may also be encouraged to form a Student Participation Committee. Activities and information is provided in Section 3: Make Connections. Appendix B: Tools and Strategies for Learning About Municipal Government, which provides information, templates and forms for the Student Participation Committee election.

Q:Where could I learn more about the history of local government in Alberta?
A: Information about the history of local government in Alberta is summarized on the Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_about_municipalities.cfm. The teacher backgrounder in Section 4: Participate in the Building Communities Through Local Government resource also provides an overview of the history of local government.

Q:How can I find out about issues that municipalities are facing?
A: There are a variety of ways that you and your students can identify examples of issues that a municipality is facing. Start by looking in local newspapers or by obtaining council minutes from the municipal office. If your students live in different municipalities, consider which issues the class may be most interested in focusing on for their research. The Municipal Profiles at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_profiles.cfm provide website links for some municipalities. A municipality’s website may provide insights and information about decisions they are facing. Budget information and financial reports may provide additional information about decisions and priorities. Alternatively, if the municipality does not have a website, look for information in local newspapers. Issues common to many municipalities in Alberta may be discussed in provincial contexts. Check the Alberta Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca. Strategies, information and activities for encouraging students to explore issues of municipal concern are provided in Section 3: Make Connections and Section 4: Participate in the Building Communities Through Local Government resources.

The Building Communities Through Local Government student website also provides a simulation that asks students to voice their opinion on a local issue – students can access the Voice Your Opinion! interactive activity through the Participation feature on the website www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. Information and instructions for the activity are provided when students click on the icon beside the character with the sign that says “All for One and One for All.”

Q:What is the contact information for Municipal Affairs?
A: Municipal Affairs can be contacted in one of the following ways.
Phone: (780) 427-2225
Fax: (780) 420-1016
E-mail: lgsmail@gov.ab.ca

About People in Municipal Government

Q:Where can I find information on the roles and responsibilities of people in municipal governments?
A:The council is the governing body of the municipal corporation and the custodian of its powers, both legislative and administrative. The Municipal Government Act provides that councils can only exercise the legislated powers of the municipal corporation in the proper form, either by bylaw or resolution. The councillors, Chief Elected Official, Chief Administrative Officer and municipal employees all have roles to play to ensure the municipality carries out its responsibilities. An overview of these roles can be accessed on Municipal Affairs website by accessing the link www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/am_roles_and_responsibilities_of_officials_in_a_local_government.cfm. Key responsibilities as specified by the Municipal Government Act can be accessed at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/abc_key_responsibilities.cfm.

To find out more about elected officials in urban municipalities, visit the websites for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) found at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm. To learn more about elected officials in rural municipalities, visit the website for the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMD&C) at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm

To find out more about the responsibilities of administrators in a municipality, the following links may be helpful. Society for Local Government Managers of Alberta (SLGM) deals with administrator interests and training. Alberta Rural Municipal Administrator's Association (ARMAA) represents rural administrators in Alberta. Local Government Administration Association (LGAA) represents municipal administrators in Alberta. Links to these sites are available via www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm.

Detailed information on the ways that municipalities can carry out their responsibilities, often through departments, is provided in Section 2: A Good Place to Live. Section 3: Make Connections provides information and activities related to the roles in a municipal government in students’ activities (Student Resource) and detailed Teacher Backgrounders. The Building Communities Through Local Government Trading Cards also provide information on roles and responsibilities of municipal governments.

The Building Communities Through Local Government student website also provides information on responsibilities in municipalities– click on each of the three municipalities found on the Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm to explore facilities and services provided by municipal government.

Q:Where can I find a list of municipal officials?
A: Students are encouraged to explore information about their own municipalities in Section 3: Make Connections, including the people involved in municipal government. 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.

Q:How can I find out more about the powers of the municipal council?
A:A municipality’s powers are addressed in the Municipal Government Act, which states “a municipality is a corporation” that has been provided with “natural person” powers. Natural person powers give municipalities the rights and powers of an individual for the purpose of exercising their authority. So, just as an individual can start up a business, enter into agreements, lease equipment or hire employees, so can a municipality. However, the municipality can use these powers only to the extent that those powers are limited by the Municipal Government Act or any other enactment of the legislature. The Municipal Government Act states that a council may pass bylaws for their municipalities respecting the following matters:

  • The safety, health and welfare of people and the protection of people and property.
  • People, activities and things in, on or near a public place or place that is open to the public.
  • Nuisances, including unsightly property.
  • Transport and transportation systems.
  • Businesses, business activities and persons engaged in business.
  • Services provided by or on behalf of the municipality.
  • Public utilities.
  • Wild and domestic animals and activities in relation to them.
  • The enforcement of bylaws.

Students are implicitly encouraged to build understandings of the extent and limits of the powers of municipalities through explorations of the roles, responsibilities and accountability of municipal government. Student information and activities that build these understandings are provided in Section 2: A Good Place to Live and Section 3: Make Connections of the Building Communities Through Local Government resources. This information is also provided in the Building Communities Through Local Government Trading Cards.

Q:Why is the municipal council responsible to the entire municipality?
A: The responsibility and accountability of the municipal council to the entire municipality is an important concept for students to understand. Elected officials on a municipality’s council are elected to look after the interests of the entire municipality. In a municipality with a ward system, an official who has been elected to represent a ward must be careful not to place the interest of the ward or electoral division above the interest of the whole municipality. As challenging as it may be at times, elected officials must base any decision on what is best for the entire municipality. The council’s effectiveness depends on elected officials providing input on their areas while thinking and voting for the whole municipality.

To learn more about the issues and services that elected officials are responsible for in urban municipalities, visit the websites for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm. To learn more about the issues and services that elected officials are responsible for in rural municipalities, visit the websites for the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMD&C) at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_external_resources.cfm.

Q:How can I find out about the responsibilities of candidates in a municipal election?
A: Although the electoral system is not the only method of participating in the democratic system, it is one of the most often referenced as a symbol of political participation. Municipal government representatives are an important aspect of the democratic process. Candidates in municipal elections have requirements they must meet. Information on municipal elections and electoral procedures are provided on the Municipal Affairs website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_elections.cfm. The Local Authorities Election Act establishes guidelines for municipal elections, including those that candidates must follow, and is also available as a link on this webpage.

Student resources that provide suggestions for holding a classroom election, including running a campaign, are included in Appendix B: Tools and Strategies for Learning About Municipal Governments. Students explore how campaigning rules are part of the accountability that elected representatives have to the people they represent. The Building Communities Through Local Government student website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm also provides a simulation that asks students to vote for a representative. Students can access the Vote for a Representative! interactive activity through the Participation feature on the website home page. Information and instructions for the activity are provided when students click on the icon beside the character with the voting booth.

About Involving Students with Municipal Government

Q:How do municipal offices encourage participation of residents?
A: Many municipalities promote proactive, involved strategies that encourage sharing and voicing opinions, listening to others, getting involved with volunteer and community groups, participating in public meetings and responding to requests for input. These types of strategies can often be more effective than confrontational types of strategies, such as rallies and demonstrations. Many municipalities consider strategies that involve effective and proactive communication the most effective strategies for participation with the public. The Municipal Affairs website facilitates contact with different municipalities through the Municipal Officials Search at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_officials_search.cfm. Municipal websites may also be provided on the Municipal Profiles link at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_profiles.cfm. A student version of the Municipal Profiles is available at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm.

The Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm provides students with the opportunity to research different strategies for participating with local government. Students can access this information in the Participation feature of the website. When students enter the Participation feature, they can click on an icon beside each character. Text windows provide information on different participation strategies. This information gives students with the opportunity to explore different perspectives about, and strategies for, community participation and involvement. This information reinforces activities and information provided in Section 4: Participate in the Building Communities Through Local Government resource.

Q:How can I contact municipal offices to request the participation of municipal officials with students?
A: Start by contacting your municipal office and sharing information about your students’ inquiry into local government. Ask about an appropriate contact person who would be willing to participate in students’ learning experiences. Possible contacts may include:

  • The Mayor or Reeve
  • A councillor
  • The Chief Administrative Officer
  • Executive assistants to the Mayor, Reeve or Chief Administrative Officer
  • Departmental Directors or Communications Officers.

Provide details about the context of the experiences you would like to invite municipal officials to share with your students well in advance. Ask if information should be confirmed with a letter or e-mail. The Municipal Affairs website facilitates contact with different municipalities through the Municipal Officials Search at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_officials_search.cfm.

Q:How should I submit student work to municipal offices?
A: Individuals involved in municipal government welcome interest in local government from students. However, be sensitive to the number of responsibilities these individuals have and consider submitting a class or school project instead of individual student projects. Contact the municipal office by telephone or e-mail to request permission to send projects, identify a contact person in the municipal office and obtain information on how the projects should be submitted.

Strategies for sending projects and student work to municipal offices, including sample letter formats that are appropriate for sending to municipal government offices, are provided in Appendix B: Tools and Strategies for Learning About Municipal Governments.

Q:How might students become involved with the municipal government?
A:Some municipalities may provide opportunities for students to be involved with municipal government. These opportunities may include participating in student or youth surveys, being a youth representative on a committee or presenting student opinions to the council. Contact the municipal office to inquire about any opportunities that may exist.

The Building Communities Through Local Government website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm models different options for student involvement with municipal government. Three decision-making storylines, one in each of the three municipalities on the website, can be found by clicking on the red star icon. Each storyline provides a decision-making process that a student in each municipality follows.

Q:How should I correspond with officials in municipal offices?
A:Use the following format to address a letter or e-mail if you are sending it to the mayor or reeve of a municipality.

Mayor or Reeve (full name)

Mayor or Reeve of (name) (Mailing Address)

Dear Sir/ Madam: or

Dear Mayor (name): or

Dear Reeve (name):

Q:How can I plan to visit a municipal office?
A: Plan a field study tour to a municipal office as part of student research. Ensure that you contact the municipal office and explain the context and purpose of the field study tour. Share some of students’ research questions in advance and discuss the types of information students would find useful. You may wish to consider requesting whether the field study tour can include:

  • A visit to council chambers
  • Listening to a portion of a council, committee or board meeting (note that these meetings are often held during the evening and may not be an option for the field study tour)

Visiting with a department head who is available during the day (for example, the finance manager or disaster services coordinator).

Have students prepare questions that focus on the types of decisions that are made by the municipal government and the various functions and responsibilities of the municipality. If there is information available on the responsibilities of municipal government, have students collect this information or ask for a class copy. Some municipal offices may be able to provide information on their roles and responsibilities. The Municipal Affairs website facilitates contact with different municipalities through the Municipal Officials Search at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/mc_municipal_officials_search.cfm.

As an alternative, have students tour the municipality’s website to collect information. Students can find some of these links in the Participation feature in the Building Communities Through Local Government student website at www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/edu_grade6_building_communities.cfm. If your students come from different municipalities, have them select one on which to focus. For example, the City of Edmonton provides a 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.

  • Date modified: 2016-12-22