Local Government Functions

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Andrew Sancton (reference below, p. 134) states:

“we can expect local governments everywhere to regulate the built environment and to provide services to real property, including the provision of local roads and sidewalks” and “recreational and cultural facilities such as parks, community halls, and public libraries.”

Sancton notes (p. 134) that:

“In more urban areas, local governments provide public transit, regulate taxis, purify and distribute piped water, and provide for sewage collection and treatment” and that “urban municipalities generally have a responsibility for policing, although there are varying mechanisms in different provinces to insulate police from the direct control of municipal councils.”

Sancton describes the variation among Canadian provinces in other local government functions (p. 134):

“Ontario is the only province in which municipalities have the statutory responsibility to provide certain social services (including income security payments) and to contribute to their funding. In Alberta, the Family and Community Support Services Act allows the provincial government to fund 80% of the costs of approved municipal preventative social service programs. In British Columbia, larger urban … municipalities (especially the city of Vancouver) are engaged in social-planning functions mainly aimed at attracting funding from other levels of government, coordinating the work of nonprofit agencies, and providing modest municipal subsidies to various kinds of social service organizations, including community centers and nonprofit child care centers. In other provinces, there is even less municipal involvement in social services, ranging from none at all to minor expenditures for non-recreational social service programs in community centers and to the staffing of social planning groups. Quebec and Ontario are the only provinces that delegate any financial responsibility for social housing.

“Municipalities in Alberta and Ontario are responsible for providing land ambulance services. The city of Winnipeg has a contractual arrangement with the regional health authority to provide ambulance services within its territory, but this is not a municipal responsibility elsewhere in the province.

“The regulation of air quality is a local (regional district) responsibility in British Columbia. Only in Ontario is public health explicitly a local responsibility, often carried out through regional or county public health units. In Manitoba, municipalities have responsibility for the inspection of food service establishments and for insect control.

“Public utilities (other than water supply) are difficult to categorize. For example, electrical distribution in Ontario’s urban areas is the responsibility of business corporations, most of which are still owned by municipalities. Some small Ontario municipalities own local telephone companies, and the city of Kitchener owns the local natural gas distribution system. In Quebec, the city of Westmount still operates the local electricity distribution system. Two of Canada’s major publicly traded utilities corporations, EPCOR and Telus, can trace their origins to being line departments of the city of Edmonton. Not surprisingly, they are still heavily involved in providing electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications infrastructure within the Edmonton region.”

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.