Municipal Elections

Making Decisions

An effective Council is one that plans ahead. While it is impossible to foresee every circumstance, by developing sound plans, creating good policies, bylaws and resolutions that reflect community needs, the job of governing can be made easier.

Planning: Foundation of Good Government

You can’t make policies, set direction and build your community without effective planning. Community Governments are receiving increasing authority to develop infrastructure, manage finances and deliver services to their communities. Good planning will help guide how that’s done.

Strategic Plan

  • Determines a community’s long-range vision and the specific goals, objectives and actions that will achieve that vision
  • Helps a Council allocate resources to achieve goals
  • As a “living document,” it must be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure your Community Government remains on track
  • Integrates other community plans

Capital Plan

  • Developed with support from MACA
  • Determines how your Community Government is going to build recreation facilities, upgrade water treatment plants and sewage lagoons, roads and other community infrastructure

Energy Plan

  • Determines the cost of operating your facilities and ways to reduce that expense
  • Can be used to help your community reduce pollution
  • Sets energy standards for residential, commercial/industry and community infrastructure development

Human Resources Plan

  • Determines how many people your Community Government needs to employ
  • Sets out the skills and requirements to help residents get the training they need to fill jobs in your Community Government

Land Use Plan

  • Sets out how you want your community to develop
  • Identifies important cultural and historic sites
  • Identifies areas for residential, commercial and industrial development

Emergency Plan

  • It’s required that the community prepare for emergencies, like forest fires, floods, extended power outages or extreme weather events
  • Identifies people and resources that can help in the event of an emergency

Recreation Plan

  • Creates an inventory of recreation facilities
  • Identifies recreation needs and sets out goals to achieve them

So You’re a Policy Maker…

  • Policies guide the decisions a Council makes. The best ones are developed when Council and Administration work together.
  • Council or Administration may suggest that a policy is needed
  • Council approves policy, not individual Councillors
  • Administration carries out the policy decision
  • Council ensures Administration is carrying out the policy decision as intended

Some “policy decisions,” such as the approval of an annual budget, are very general. Other policies are for special things, such as a local purchasing policy.

Before Council makes a policy decision or bylaw, Administration should review NWT legislation to make sure you have the authority and that what you plan to do is legal. It can also be useful to consult other Community Governments or the NWTAC to see if there are examples of similar policies or bylaws in other areas. As a member of Council, you should be familiar with NWT laws that apply to your Community Government:

  • Charter Communities Act
  • Cities, Towns & Villages Act
  • Hamlets Act
  • Indian Act (For First Nations Community Governments)
  • Tłı̨chǫ Community Government Act
  • Local Authorities Elections Act

NOTE: NWT legislation affecting Community Governments is subject to updates and changes. It is important that Administration is aware of changes and that you as a Community Council play a role in shaping changes when Acts are reviewed. You can do this by being a member of the NWT Association of Communities.

Policies, Bylaws and Resolutions

Legislation specifically states whether a bylaw is required or a resolution is sufficient.

Policies – Written Statements to Guide Decisions by Council and Administration

  • Passed by Council
  • Often supported by procedures which are used to explain how to implement the policy

Bylaws – Community laws that set out Community Government Authority

  • Passed by the Council controlling items they are responsible for
  • Applicable legislation states what Councils may be responsible for
  • Some bylaws require other approvals (i.e. voter approval or Ministerial approval)

Resolutions – Decisions that address specific questions

  • Passed by Council and generally deal with a single event or issue
  • Expression of Council’s position
  • Give direction to the SAO
  • Approve short term planning (special events…)

Band Council Resolution – Decisions and Directions of Band Council

  • A Band Council Resolution is a recorded decision made by a First Nation Band Council
  • This decision requires the support of a majority of Chief and Councillors, at a meeting of the Council
  • A Band Council Resolution is required to pass or approve many decisions made by a First Nation Band

A Closer Look at Policy Making

There are five main stages to making policy:

  1. Get Started: Council decides what the community needs and what it might look like in both the short and long term
  • Policies are then developed to meet those needs. This sometimes involves amending or “fixing up” old policies Administration will provide advice when this is required
  • If new policy is required, an individual member of Council or Administration may suggest that Council consider new policy development
  1. Research: Information needs to be gathered before policy is made. This is usually done by Administration, with direction from Council.
  • Effective policies are those that have public input
  1. Approval by Council: Only Council, in a regular or special meeting, can approve policy.
  1. Carry out the Policy: Putting a policy into action usually results in a change to a program or service. Administration is responsible for directing staff to see that the policy is carried out.
  • Councillors should monitor how well the program is working by setting performance standards.
  1. Review or Evaluation: After a period of time both Council and Administration should review past performance to see if there are ways to improve policy.