A member of city council is a Councillor appointed by the mayor to manage a particular area within the city. The Councillor is usually elected by the people and is not required to have a mandate from the voters. The Councillor’s term is usually four years, though this is subject to an election after every four years. Once elected, the Councillor is responsible for ensuring that the budget is balanced, making sure that all by-laws and regulations are followed, resolving any issues that may come up with the city and dealing with complaints. Councils are also responsible for the maintenance and safety of roads, parks and recreation areas.
In terms of standing for re-election, a member of city council is not required to stand as an Independent, he/she must be registered as a member of the party in which he/she is standing to be eligible for election. Every member of the council is required to register their name in the voters’ list on the City of Calgary’s Access to Information website. If a member of council is not registered as an Independent, they can register as a Liberal, Green or Conservative. It is however, against the City’s Election Act for someone not registered as an Independent to stand as a candidate in an election. When this happens, they must declare their party affiliation.
As far as voting within the Councillor’s seat is concerned, each member is required to cast a ballot once each Council meeting, as well as at the Executive meeting. These votes are not secret; the Councillor does not have the option of casting a vote against his/her own party.
However, there are rules laid out when a member cannot vote for themselves. Should a member of city council fail to abstain from voting for a certain number of days, they lose their seat. This rule was implemented to ensure that fair elections are held, without favouritism or “vote buying”.
The current voting procedure requires that a member present valid membership to the Council. The only exception to this is when a by-law already makes it illegal to be a member of city council without a membership to the council. This has been the case with the current amalgamation of the Calgary Police Association with the Calgary Police Force.
Under such circumstances, the member must still provide a valid ID for themselves, in order to vote. This does not however mean that a new member can immediately be seated on the council without having a membership.
If you have been a member of city hall for a number of years, there is an automatic vacancy present until the next election. When that time comes, the current members will have to apply to take their places on the council. If there is not enough room for all the members, the voting is divided amongst the remaining members. Each member is required to first seek the approval of the Chairperson before submitting their application.
In order for a Councillor to become independent, they need to reach thirty-one years of age. However, if they were appointed to fill a vacant seat, they are considered ‘ex-officio’ and have no right of voting or sitting on the council. This applies to municipal posts in urban areas as well as rural ones. Once a Councillor no longer meets the age requirement, they may opt not to serve on the city’s governing body. A Councillor who decides to quit early can do so till the next general election, if the party is holding one.
Any member of the city council who wishes to end their term can submit an application to the Executive of the Board of Directors. This application is then presented to the other members for approval. If it is approved, the member will be ex-officio and no longer needed by the board. In this case, the member will have no say over the way their term is ended. The only remedy if this happens is for the current member to get a majority of the votes of the other current members in order to continue as a Councillor.
There are some instances where two members of the city council cannot agree on the terms of the Councillor. In these cases, a tie-vote is held. Where a tie-vote is held, the chair will be turned over to the leader of the opposition and the other members will have no say in the matter. One of the two will then be asked to stand down. It is then usual for the other member to again present their application to the Executive and the new terms will be accepted.