How Cities Work: Module 1
Who is Responsible for What?
Governments & Jurisdiction
Everything that exists in our cities – from houses, hospitals and schools to street lamps, buses and parks – are all the responsibility of different levels of government and the choices they make.
In Canada we have four levels of government: Federal (Parliament of Canada), Provincial/Territorial (BC Legislature), and Municipal (aka City Government — like the City of Vancouver), as well as Indigenous Governments (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis). All voting-eligible Canadian citizens are able to vote for and elect representatives to the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, while Indigenous Governments take different forms, and their representatives may be elected or appointed by members of that Indigenous community.
Each of these governments exist to make decisions on behalf of their people. It’s important to learn who you can contact if you have a problem, or if you want to have your voice heard when decisions are being made.
The Constitution Act (originally written all the way back in 1867!) gives our governments their responsibilities. The federal government (in charge of the whole country) is responsible for things like international relations, the military, our currency and postal service, and even cell phone and internet service. The provincial and territorial governments are responsible for things like education, hospitals, prisons, and natural resources (like mining and logging).
According to the Constitution, Municipalities (local governments) are the responsibility of the Provincial governments. Each province and municipality is a little bit different, but in general, municipal governments are responsible for everyday things that make a city run (like what gets built where, water and sewers, garbage pickup and street cleaning). There are also many aspects of daily life where the responsibilities are shared between different levels of government, like housing, transportation, environmental protection and more.