Acting in Good Faith

Thanks to Ian Skinner of the Onoway River Valley Conservation Association for this timely review of the environmental authorities of soon to be elected municipal politicians

Good faith requires a party who has a “discretionary power” under a contract to exercise that discretion in accordance with the purposes for which it was conferred”, the Supreme Court of Canada SCC 7. [1] This means simply that parties must not lie or otherwise knowingly mislead each other about matters directly linked to the performance of the contract.

Who is responsible for the “direction, control and management” of surface and ground water bodies within Alberta municipalities? 

Municipalities can and should be prioritizing environment management plans and bylaws, all of which are subject to the Municipal Government Act. According to Dr. Judy Stewart in Municipal Direction, Control and Management of Local Wetlands and Associated Riparian Lands: Section 60 of Alberta’s Municipal Government Act (2009), “If municipalities do not take action to manage these important natural resources at a local level, water bodies and riparian lands will continue to be impacted and destroyed to allow for increased development. It is in the greater public interest to invest in society’s “common wealth”, which in the case of natural capital would include the aquatic environment.” [2]

The Municipal Government Act is a job description. “It lays the foundation for how municipalities operate, how municipal councils function, and how citizens can work with their municipalities. The MGA is the legislative framework in which all municipalities and municipal entities across the Province of Alberta must operate and is one of the most significant and far-reaching statutes in Alberta. The MGA affects everyone in Alberta, the private sector and every ministry in the Government of Alberta.” [3] [4]

“Before taking part in a council meeting or performing any councillor duty, councillors are required to make and subscribe to the official oath of office. By taking the oath, you swear or promise that you will diligently, faithfully, and to the best of your ability, fulfill the duties of the office to which you have been elected. Mayor, Council, members of council committees or other bodies established by Council are responsible for ensuring that the municipality acts within its enabling legislation. The question of liability may arise as a result of councillors’ actions. Councillors have the following duty to perform any other duty or function imposed on councillors by the MGA or any other enactment or by the council (MGA s.153). However, section 535 of the MGA was written to protect councillors from personal liability while acting in good faith for the municipality.” [3][4]

Municipal governments must be held accountable to “uphold the law established by the Parliament of Canada and the Legislature of Alberta and the bylaws, policies and procedures adopted by Council” [5], during the earliest stage of planning and land use bylaw decision making, if not, such breaches will have dire consequences. 

Support a candidate who is willing to listen, act in good faith and “invest in the common wealth” [2] on behalf of our constituents, regardless of shared values. 

References:

  1. https://www.bennettjones.com/Blogs-Section/Supreme-Court-of-Canada-Imposes-Good-Faith-Limits-on-the-Exercise-of-Contractual-Discretion
  2. https://www.albertalawreview.com/index.php/ALR/article/download/321/318/319
  3. https://www.alberta.ca/municipal-government-act
  4. https://open.alberta.ca/publications/9781460136324What every councillor needs to know!     
  5. https://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/Regs/2017_200.pdf Code of Conduct for Elected Officials 
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