Provincial Controls over Local Government

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Andrew Sancton (reference below, p. 135) notes that under Canada’s constitution, provincial legislatures “can do whatever they want with local governments” and that:

“There is in every province at least one general law that establishes the basic rules and structures of municipal government. Such laws are frequently amended as a result of particular issues and problems, many of which were unforeseen when the legislation was originally approved.”

Sancton notes that:

“In principle, municipalities favor broad and general grants of functional authority together with considerable autonomy regarding how to structure themselves and regulate their own behavior. In practice, their actions are more easily defended in courts of law against aggrieved residents and businesses if the legislative authority under which they are acting is clear and explicit.

“Some major Canadian cities – Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, for example – are governed by provincial laws specifically tailored for their own purposes. Such laws, often called charters, give no more protection to cities against arbitrary provincial legislation than is available under general municipal legislation, but they usually provide for more functional authority than is generally found in smaller places so that these cities can potentially act more effectively in relation to complex urban issues.”

And that:

“Provincial governments also control municipalities through the power of the purse. The most direct form of financial control is through grants allocated to municipalities for particular purposes; but, by legislation and regulation, provincial governments also control the methods by which municipalities raise their own revenues, especially from the tax on real property.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Municipal Governance (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Andrew Sancton (2010), Local Government, in The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics, eds. John C. Courtney and David E. Smith, pp. 132-151. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 29 September 2016.