Most of the time, the things we call "petitions" are really just letters signed by a number of people. They might influence the way Council votes, but they don't obligate Council to vote in a certain way. Many of us have signed a petition at one time or another. They are usually used to indicate the support or opposition by a group of people towards a proposed action, in the hopes of influencing a government (or sometimes a private sector) decision.
A legal petition, on the other hand, requires Council to take a specific action. Depending on the situation, Council may be obligated to pass or defeat a bylaw, or take the issue to a general community vote (also known as a plebiscite).
Because legal petitions carry so much weight, there are rules which must be followed. These rules are set by the Municipal Government Act of Alberta. This Act can be viewed online by visiting the Alberta Queen's Printer.
Municipal Affairs publishes this document (PDF) that can be used to identify areas of the Municipal Government Act relating to petitions to council. This document is intended to supplement and explain specific sections or applications of the Act.
We are pleased to provide a summary below; however, it is recommended that anyone wishing to file a petition obtain an office consolidation of the MGA, including amendments, and consult your solicitor prior to initiating a petition.
Who can sign a petition?
Only electors of a municipality are eligible to be petitioners. This means anyone signing the petition must be a Canadian citizen 18 years of age or older. The person must have been a resident of Alberta for the preceding six months, and be a resident of Banff the day he or she signs the petition.
The petition must be signed by at least 10 per cent of the population. In Banff, this means that a minimum of 886 signatures are required.
What information is required?
A petition must consist of one or more pages, with each page containing an identical statement of the purpose of the petition. It also must include, for each person signing the petition:
- The printed surname and printed given names or initials of the petitioner,
- The petitioner's signature,
- The street address or legal address of the land where the petitioner lives, and
- The date on which the petitioner signs the petition.
Each signature must be witnessed by a person 18 years of age or over. The witness must sign opposite the signature of the petitioner, and sign an affidavit that, to the best of the witness's knowledge, the petitioner is eligible to sign the petition.
A signed statement must be attached to the petition. The person signing must confirm that they are the representative of the petitioners, and that all inquiries from the municipality must be forwarded to them.
Is timing a factor?
When a petition is about a bylaw that has either already been passed or has been given first reading then advertised, there are deadlines for submissions. If you have any questions about deadlines, please contact the municipal clerk.