Provincial legislation requires local governments to hold a public hearing as part of the process to adopt or change a bylaw regulating the use of land. These public hearings give people a forum to air their views on the proposed bylaw, allowing local governments to gauge the public’s concerns and support. They have long been viewed in a favourable light, as a cornerstone of local democracy.
But lately public hearings have attracted some pointed criticism. Critics have questioned whether BC’s legislation on public hearings is really advancing public participation and democratic engagement. They’ve pointed to studies and surveys that indicate widespread dissatisfaction with the process. Current public-hearing requirements, critics say, result in costs, wasted time, low satisfaction, and sometimes trauma for those involved. Is there a better way to engage the public and reduce pre-development risk and barriers to housing?
BCLI seeks to answer this question in the Renovate the Public Hearing Project: Pre-Development Public Engagement & Legal Reforms to Support Housing Supply. Building on our previous study of the origins, development, and current state of the law on public hearings, BCLI will in this project make recommendations for specific reforms to the Local Government Act and related legislation.
Keywords: local government; land use; planning; zoning; official community plan; city; regional district; municipality; Local Government Act; public hearing; public participation; democracy; administrative decision-making; procedural fairness; natural justice; housing, tenancy, and neighbours; rights and citizenship; administrative law and tribunals
Reconciliation and Community Listening Exploration Series
An important component of the project will be to consider how reforms to the law on public hearings can be aligned with Indigenous governance. In 2019, BC passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which requires that all crown legislation be aligned to be consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. BCLI’s project will identify ways to integrate Indigenous considerations into law-reform approaches for public hearings so that any recommended legislative changes can function in a legally plural context. The project has been designed to support a Reconciliation and Community Listening Exploration Series, which will allow BCLI to engage with these issues directly and to provide input from that engagement to the project committee.
Project committee, methodology, and term
BCLI is carrying out this project with the assistance of an expert project committee. The project is slated to run until 31 March 2024.
Funding for this project has been provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as part of its Housing Supply Challenge—Getting Started Round.
Below you will find additional, relevant and specific documentation, backgrounders, research, resources, media releases and summaries that have been, or will be incorporated into our final publications and study papers.
If you have questions about these or other specific documents, please reach out to BCLI using our contact page or at the bottom of each page of our website.