The objective of the government's reopening plan is for health regions to gradually move to less restrictive alert levels, depending on the epidemiological situation and vaccination coverage that prevails. In accordance with this plan, the whole of Québec is now designated as a green zone.
However, the majority of measures that specifically affected municipalities varied according to the alert level system. This was the case, for example, as regards the possibility for the public to attend municipal council meetings or to participate in public consultation meetings in person. The fact that the whole of Québec is now designated as a green zone means that certain measures specifically aimed at the municipal sector have been eased.
The ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Habitation, in collaboration with the public health authorities, is currently analyzing the adjustments that can be made to measures still in force.
The Municipality-specific public health measures according to alert level (PDF 670 Kb) table (PDF 580 KB) illustrates the measures specifically aimed at the municipal sector and applicable according to the alert level in force.
Yes, it is recommended that a specific plan be developed in the event of an outbreak or pandemic. The gouvernement du Québec has prepared a guide to support the municipal sector in this regard :
Even if they have not developed such a plan, municipalities can take all the measures they deem necessary to protect their employees and ensure the continuity of essential services.
The summer, municipalities can offer day camps in the summer of 2021. Sleepaway summer camps can also be made available.
Camps must carry out their activities in full compliance with the public health regulations in effect. To this end, businesses and organizations in the camp sector (e.g. municipal recreation organizations) must refer to the tools developed to ensure that their activities can be resumed under safe conditions:
- The Association des camps du Québec (ACQ) COVID-19 guidelines (available in French only).
- The Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) Workplace Sanitary Standards Guide for Day Camps - COVID-19 (available in French only).
Libraries are allowed to open according to the rules in effect, if the municipality is able to allow access in accordance with the public health directives in force.
It is recommended that municipalities limit the capacity of libraries by taking into account a ratio established by considering the accessible floor space for waiting at the circulation desk and for individual workspaces.
Employees are not included in the calculation of this ratio.
It is also recommended that the library's capacity be clearly and visibly displayed. In addition, the municipality must take the necessary measures to ensure a two-metre distance between people in the premises (e.g. line-ups, seating). It also has to provide devices to allow library staff and people accessing the library to disinfect their hands.
Municipalities can play a role in authorizing outdoor gatherings. They must consider the rules in force for the purposes of these authorizations since the nature of the gatherings concerned (sports, shows, events of a social nature, etc.) and the number of people admitted may vary.
In this regard, Order in Council No. 885-2021, dated June 23, 2021, prohibits any person from admitting more than the maximum number of persons to any premises under his or her control. Thus, for gatherings to be held on municipal property (park, public parking lot, street, etc.) and for which authorization is required, the municipality should know the capacity of the sites and, if necessary, set a limit respecting the maximum number of people that can gather under the public health regulations in force. It cannot issue an authorization knowing that these regulations cannot be respected.
In addition, the municipality may set any other conditions for the occupation of its public domain, and it may provide rules concerning revocation of the authorization (Cities and Towns Act, s. 29.19; Municipal Code, s. 14.16.1).
Once the gathering is authorized by the municipality, the organizer is responsible for ensuring that the rules concerning the maximum number of people that can gather are respected and that the capacity of the premises where the gathering is held allows for a distance of two metres between participants to be maintained.
In the event of a violation of the above rules, the stakeholders concerned, including municipalities that have authorized a gathering that is not in compliance with the rules, could be fined between $1,000 and $6,000.
The previous guidance concerned the authorization of events by municipalities. In addition, the government has established specific directives for promoters of festivals and larger events (they do not apply, for example, to small private gatherings in public outdoor venues). In particular, the holding of festivals and events is conditional on the development of a health protocol that meets the requirements of the public health directives for outdoor public events and activities (available in French only) and on the submission of a certification form by the promoter (available in French only). This form is sent to the direction régionale de santé publique and to the municipality where the event is to be held. It may be used by the municipality to assess the terms and conditions of its authorization of the event, if applicable.
The government has announced the possibility of holding festivals or similar events as of June 25, 2021. There will be a limit to the number of participants and various rules must be respected. Order in Council No. 885-2021 of June 23, 2021 already provides for certain rules applicable to shows and similar events. For more details, see the page on directives for festivals and events.
See also the directives provided for the question "What is the role of municipalities in relation to outdoor gatherings?"
It is up to each municipality to choose whether to open or close its offices. It is also possible for the municipality to partially open its offices and allow citizens to access them to obtain services that are not suspended. The municipality must ensure compliance with the rules on social distancing and the health measures prescribed by public health authorities to prevent the virus from spreading.
A municipality may authorize the use of municipal watercraft launching equipment and access to the municipal marina. However, it must put in place the necessary measures that respect public health directives so that access to this equipment does not lead to gatherings that are prohibited.
Furthermore, if the marina is equipped with a harbour master's office or a similar building where services are offered to users, the activities held there must comply with the applicable directives. For example, there is a limit to the number of people allowed in a bar section.
The gouvernement du Québec also recommends that municipalities remind users of the applicable social distancing rules and the public health measures prescribed by Santé publique to prevent the spread of the virus.
Municipal facilities such as water games, outdoor swimming pools, and beaches can be made accessible to the public. Access to sanitary facilities and changing rooms is also permitted in compliance with public health measures.
It remains the responsibility of site managers to decide whether to open their facility and to implement all recommended public health measures. In particular, site managers must
- determine and display the maximum number of people allowed on the premises according to the capacity of the outdoor or indoor facilities.
- prohibit access to symptomatic persons or those who have received isolation instructions.
- ensure a physical distance of two metres between people from different residences at all times.
- facilitate hand washing or disinfection at the entrance to indoor facilities and at strategic locations.
- require the wearing of masks or face coverings in enclosed or partially enclosed public places for people aged 10 years or older.
- clean frequently touched surfaces.
- terminate the activity or add control measures when compliance with basic measures becomes difficult.
For more information, you can consult the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) instructions on swimming areas (available in French only) and the directives specific to the recreation and sport sector.
Outdoor flea markets can be held. If the municipality organizes the market, it is responsible for the application of the public health measures in force. The directives designed for public markets shall apply.
Flea market organizers may refer to the CNESST's Workplace Sanitary Standards Guide for the Retail and Shopping Centre Sector and the INSPQ's Shops and stores-Preventive measures in the workplace for information on the public health measures to be implemented. The basic public health directives must also be respected.
For garage sales, the rules for gatherings on private outdoor property apply. There is a limit to the number of people allowed on the grounds of a residence.
Municipalities may allow access to community garden areas, including municipal greenhouses, under their jurisdiction.
It is recommended that municipalities put in place the necessary measures to ensure that the use of these community garden areas complies with public health directives and does not lead to gatherings that are prohibited. To this end, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) has produced a document that includes information on the conditions that must be respected to ensure the protection of users in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic (available in French only).
For a poster to place at the entrance of a community garden so as to prevent infection, please see the publication Information for Community Garden Users .
In the exercise of their jurisdiction, municipalities may authorize public places to be used for the distribution and supply of food directly from farms and food processing businesses (e.g., distribution of market garden produce). In addition, food business operations are not subject to a government suspension; hence, permanent or seasonal public markets can maintain their direct sales to consumers. By authorizing these activities, municipalities are strategically contributing to food self-sufficiency and the consumption of local products.
However, where appropriate, it is recommended that municipalities ensure that these activities are consistent with existing municipal regulations and that those responsible for such activities are able to enforce preventive public health directives.
For more information, please refer to the guidelines for businesses and workers in the biofood sector, including directions on how to apply the recommended preventive measures.
The municipality must ensure increased maintenance of the premises. It is recommended that the health directives in effect be respected. Frequently touched surfaces (e.g. taps, toilets, doorknobs, and dryers) must be cleaned several times per work shift.
Furthermore, in order to regulate the opening of locations where outdoor activities are practiced, the CNESST has developed A workplace sanitary standards guide for the Leisure, Sports and Outdoor Recreation Sector – COVID 19 .
Please note that outdoor activities may be restricted (e.g. maximum number of participants). These rules are presented on the page describing the measures in force by municipality.
Municipalities that provide access to street furniture and fixtures should provide an enhanced cleaning procedure for frequently touched surfaces. The frequency of cleaning and disinfection of washroom facilities should be increased and adjusted according to traffic volumes.
Disinfection of street furniture is a targeted measure that could help reduce the risk of virus transmission. To this end, Health Canada regularly updates an approved list of hard- surface disinfectants . The Institut national de santé publique (INSPQ) has also published a fact sheet on cleaning and disinfection methods and appropriate protective measures (available in French only)
Water fountains can be opened and made accessible to the public. However, these fountains must be cleaned and disinfected according to proven methods.
According to the INSPQ fact sheet on the outdoor environment and COVID-19 (available in French only), the viral concentration on urban furniture and fixtures, including water fountains, is likely to be altered by various factors (temperature, humidity, ultraviolet rays, wind, and precipitation). Municipalities should nevertheless ensure that routine cleaning procedures are maintained. Disinfection of water fountains is a targeted measure that may help reduce the risk of virus transmission.
These recommendations for water fountains are based on the INSPQ fact sheet concerning cleaning and disinfection methods and appropriate protective measures (available in French only).
- The virus responsible for COVID-19 can survive for some time (a few hours to several days) on various surfaces but is easily removed by most regular cleaners and disinfectants.
- Health Canada regularly updates an approved list of hard-surface disinfectants . It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the use of these products at all times. A bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide (0.5%) can also be used.
- All frequently touched surfaces (e.g., push buttons) should be cleaned regularly as follows:
- In public places, cleaning should be carried out at least daily and if possible even more frequently (every two to four hours).
In addition, it should be noted that public education measures (e.g., signs posted near water fountains) can be put in place by municipalities to ensure compliance with public health regulations, i.e.,
- Promote respect for physical distancing (e.g., in line-ups near water fountains).
- Promote hand hygiene measures.
- Promote the practice of respiratory etiquette:
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, use tissues or a folded elbow, and then wash your hands.
- Use disposable tissues.
- Discard used tissues immediately in the trash.
- Use non-contact garbage cans.
- Avoid touching your mouth or eyes with your hands.
Sections 573.2 of the Cities and Towns Act and 937 of the Municipal Code of Québec stipulate that in the case of irresistible force of such a nature as to imperil the life or health of the population or to seriously damage the municipal equipment, the head of the council (mayor of a municipality or warden of an RCM) may order any expenditure he or she considers necessary and award any contract necessary to remedy the situation. This power should therefore be used only under such conditions and only as an exceptional measure. For the sake of transparency and sound public management, it is also suggested that it be used only in cases where the urgency of the situation does not allow the council to make a decision in a timely manner and according to the usual contractual rules.
Otherwise, the municipality's expenditures and contracts must be authorized by council, subject to the adoption of an order delegating to a municipal official the power to authorize expenditures and enter into contracts in the name of the municipality pursuant to sections 477.2 of the Cities and Towns Act and 165.1 of the Municipal Code of Québec.
It should also be noted that sections 573.2 of the Cities and Towns Act and 937 of the Municipal Code of Québec provide that the mayor of the municipality or the warden of the RCM, as the case may be, must report to council on the use of his or her power to decree expenditures and award contracts at the first meeting of council that follows.
Pursuant with the declaration of a public health emergency by the gouvernement du Québec, the series of measures established by government orders-in-council and ministerial orders issued by the Minister of Health and Social Services and the importance of ensuring full and complete consistency between government interventions, those of the Direction nationale de la santé publique, and those of municipalities, the latter cannot declare a local state of emergency for any reason linked to the COVID-19 pandemic without first obtaining the authorization of the national public health director. This particular condition is the subject of Order No. 2020-014 adopted on April 2, 2020. Any municipality wishing to discuss the appropriateness of declaring a local state of emergency for such a reason must first contact its local Direction de la santé publique. The latter will undertake a review of the situation in order to obtain authorization from the national public health director, if required.
In the event that a declaration of a state of local emergency is adopted in accordance with the conditions set out above, section 47 of the Civil Protection Act provides that the municipality may exercise specific powers to protect the life, health, or integrity of persons. In exercising the specific powers granted to it by virtue of a state of local emergency, the municipality must, however, in accordance with Order No. 2020-014, comply with any conditions that the national public health director may set, including any restriction on one or more of these powers. In addition, the measures provided for in the declaration of a local state of emergency may not exceed the authority stipulated in section 47.
Any municipality that has declared a state of emergency under these conditions must send its declaration of a state of emergency to the direction régionale de la sécurité civile et de la sécurité incendie of the ministère de la Sécurité publique, accompanied by proof of authorization from the national public health director.
It is essential to aim for the greatest possible congruence between measures to be taken by municipalities and those taken by the government. This will make it easier to achieve the benefits sought by all these measures, which are intended to ensure the best possible protection of public health.
This measure does not prevent a municipality from declaring a local state of emergency for reasons other than the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. flood, earthquake, major fire, or other disasters).
A mask or face covering must be worn on public transport (buses, metro, ferries, taxis, car services, etc.) and in enclosed or partially enclosed public spaces for people aged 10 and over.
Under Order in Council No. 885-2021 of June 23, 2021, this requirement includes all locations in which municipal services are offered, along with sites intended for cultural, recreational and sporting activities (e.g. board rooms, libraries, arenas, sports centres, community rooms).
The obligation to wear a face covering only applies in the publicly accessible part of these premises. However, it is recommended that employees wear face coverings when moving about their workplace, even in areas not open to the public. (Specific guidance for municipal employees is provided below).
Face coverings are also required in lobbies, reception areas, and elevators in all buildings other than apartment buildings, or when circulating therein, whether or not the premises are open to the public.
It is the responsibility of the municipalities in charge of these premises to ensure that face coverings are worn therein. The municipalities must not tolerate any individual who elects not to wear a face covering, barring the exceptions set out under Order in Council No. 885-2021 2020 (e.g. children under the age of 10 years old or persons with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing face coverings). When municipalities rent rooms or halls, the person in charge of the activity has a responsibility to enforce the same obligation.
For more information on face coverings, please refer to the section on the use of masks or face coverings in public places within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Generally speaking, yes.
Certain exceptions to the requirement to wear face coverings are however provided for under Order in Council No. 885-2020 of July 15, for example when participating in sports or physical activities. A person may also remove his or her face covering when seated and maintaining a distance of two metres from all other people, for example if the person is a member of the public attending a council meeting or a public meeting. An exception will also be made for persons consuming food or beverages in any space reserved for food or alcohol consumption.
Specific guidelines for municipal employees and elected officials are provided in the questions that follow.
As of June 7, 2021, the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) no longer requires that a medical mask or a mask certified by the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) be worn continuously in green zones. (This is nevertheless recommended). However, the CNESST requires that such a face covering be worn when a physical distance of two metres or the use of a physical barrier is not possible, both indoors and outdoors. Masking is recommended for people moving about.
Hence, continuous masking does not apply if a person is working alone in an enclosed cubicle or room (e.g., office with walls and door, truck, compartment)
A municipal employee who is required to attend a council meeting or a public meeting is considered to be in the workplace.
It should be noted that a face covering, also called a craft mask, can refer to a face covering made by a company or a face covering made at home. A procedure mask refers to a medical mask that is attached with elastic bands behind the ears.
For more information on face coverings, please refer to the section on the use of masks or face coverings in public places within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. You may also consult the CNESST publications on the continuous wearing of medical masks.
In order to ensure uniform application of the rules throughout Québec, municipalities should avoid adopting specific regulations to establish a curfew on their territory for any reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It should also be remembered that a municipal by-law must in no way be inconsistent with a government law or regulation.
To issue tax receipts to citizens who contribute to a food assistance fund it has set up, the municipality must be a donee recognized by Revenu Québec and the Canada Revenue Agency.
The list of Quebec municipalities that are qualified donees is available on the Canada Revenue Agency website.
The website of the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques provides information concerning the qualification of operators on the page dealing with the requirements of the Regulation respecting municipal wastewater treatment works .
The website of the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques provides information regarding this topic on the page dealing with the competence of operators of drinking water distribution systems .
The application of municipal biosolids is strictly regulated in Québec. The requirements that must be met in this regard limit the risk of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission.
Municipal biosolids applied in Québec must comply with environmental quality requirements, particularly in terms of pathogen content. To achieve these levels of quality, biosolids undergo chemical, physical or biological treatments. This significantly reduces the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 presence and viral activity in biosolids.
The combined action of the wastewater treatment chain and environmental guidelines that delineate the application of these biosolids ensures safe recycling for the population and the environment.
According to the Center for Disease Control (the U.S. federal agency for the protection of public health), coronaviruses are less resistant to various forms of treatment than are other types of viruses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also maintains that, like other coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 is less resistant in the environment and is likely to become inactive in wastewater. The WHO further maintains that treatments applied upstream of municipal biosolids generation lessens the probability that viruses are present while at the same time reducing viral activity.
Refer to provincial and federal agencies for health and safety issues related to the handling of biosolids.
Council members may participate in council meetings in person if basic public health measures can be respected (e.g. physical distancing). Otherwise, Order No. 2020-029 of April 26, 2020 permits a municipal council meeting to be held by any means that allow its members to communicate directly with each other and to vote orally. For example, a municipality could hold a session by videoconference or by telephone.
Where the municipality chooses to use a means of communication permitted by Order No. 2020-029 to attend a council meeting that is required by law to be held in public, the meeting shall be publicized, as soon as practicable, by any means that permits the public to learn of the substance of the discussions among council members and the outcome of their deliberations.
To meet this obligation, the municipality may use any of the following means, among others:
- the publication of an audio or audiovisual recording of the meeting made by means of a device such as a tablet, telephone, or camera.
- the complete transcription of the deliberations of council members in a document accessible to the public.
- broadcasting the council meeting on a digital platform or by other means that allow citizens to access it.
It should be noted that the publication of minutes alone, while still required by law, is not sufficient to comply with the obligation, unless the document reproduces the entire proceedings of the council meeting.
The municipality must allow the public to attend council meetings, as long as the number of people admitted respects the capacity of the room, in accordance with the public health measures set out in Order in Council No. 885-2021, including the requirement to maintain a distance of two metres between those attending.
The municipality may hold its meetings without the presence of the public in any of the following situations:
- The municipality is unable to accept that the public be in attendance while also adhering to the health measures set out in Order in Council No. 885-2021.
- All Council members will attend the session via one of the forms of communication allowed under the April 26, 2020 Order No. 2020-029 (e.g. by video conference or phone).
A municipality that refuses all or part of the public for this reason must publicize the meeting, as soon as possible, by any means that makes it possible to learn the content of the discussions among council members and the outcome of their deliberations (e.g., publication of an audio or audiovisual recording, full transcription of the deliberations in a document accessible to the public, broadcasting of the meeting on a digital platform).
Order No. 2020-049 of July 4, 2020 also adds a requirement for a municipality to allow written questions to be submitted to council members at any time prior to the meeting. This requirement applies to any sitting that, by law, must include a question period. Where the presence of the public is permitted, the transmission of written questions is in addition to the oral question period provided for in section 322 of the Cities and Towns Act and section 150 of the Municipal Code of Québec. It is strongly recommended that written questions and the answers provided by council members be recorded in a register accessible to the public.
In regions with a high alert level (red zone), council meetings must be held without the public in attendance. However, the municipality should publicize the meeting as soon as possible by any means that provides information on the content of discussions among council members and the outcome of their deliberations (e.g., by publishing an audio or audio-visual recording, transcribing the entire proceedings into a publicly available document, broadcasting the meeting on a digital platform, etc).
The orders and orders in council currently in force do not require municipal bodies to keep an attendance register at council meetings attended by the public.
However, this is good practice. If a person who attended the council meeting tested positive for COVID-19, it would be easier for public health authorities to track down those individuals who may have been exposed to the virus and thus prevent further infections.
If such a register is created, a person cannot be required to sign it for authorized access to the meeting. Any signature is therefore voluntary.
This is an exceptional measure whose application will be temporary. Its purpose is to protect the health of elected officials and those attending council meetings. Municipalities that prohibit public access to the council chambers are strongly encouraged to allow citizens to attend council meetings other than in person (e.g., by video conference or telephone).
It should be noted that these municipalities must also make council meetings public as soon as possible. Municipalities must also allow any person to submit written questions to council members before a meeting convenes.
For elected municipal officials and municipal employees alike, the wearing of a mask or face covering over the nose and mouth is compulsory in places receiving members of the public. The obligation to wear a mask or face covering applies to places where municipal services are offered, as well as to premises intended for cultural, recreational, or sports activities (e.g., rooms where council meetings are held, libraries, arenas, sports centres, community halls). It applies only to the part of these places that is accessible to the public, insofar as they are closed or partially covered and are not an accommodation unit. Wearing a mask or face covering is also compulsory for access to an entrance hall, a reception area, or an elevator in a building other than an apartment building or to circulate in these premises, even if they are not open to the public.
While performing their duties, municipal elected officials remain subject to workplace health standards related to COVID-19. In this regard, the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) requires that a medical mask when it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of two metres or to use a physical barrier.
Therefore, during council meetings or public meetings, the elected official must keep his or her medical mask on when these conditions are not met. The official may remove it when seated and when a distance of two metres is maintained with any other person. The mask must be put back on when moving about. It should be noted that a face covering, also known as a craft mask, can refer to a face covering made by a company or a face covering made at home. An interventional mask (procedure mask) refers to a medical mask that is attached with elastic bands behind the ears.
For more information on wearing a mask or face covering, please refer to the section on wearing a mask or face covering in public settings in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
Under Order in Council No. 885-2021 of June 23, 2021, persons whose particular medical condition prevents them from wearing a mask or face covering, as well as those who are not able to put it on or take it off by themselves, are not subject to the obligation to wear a mask or face covering. It is recommended that such persons avoid, as much as possible, places where they are required to wear them. However, the access of persons who cannot wear a mask or face covering to places where wearing a mask or face covering is compulsory must not be restricted by a third person. If exempted persons frequent places where masks or face coverings are compulsory, they must strictly respect the physical distance of two metres between themselves and others.
It is therefore possible for a municipal elected official to be exempted from the obligation to wear a mask or face covering for medical reasons. The municipality may put measures in place to otherwise encourage his or her participation in council meetings other than physically, for example by allowing the person to communicate directly with other council members and to vote by videoconference or telephone.
Persons suffering from a chronic condition, including cardiovascular disease and lung disease, are not among those exempted from wearing a mask or face covering. Whenever possible, these people should consider using the procedure mask as it offers better protection against the virus.
For more information on wearing a mask or face covering, please refer to the section on wearing a mask or face covering in public settings in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also read the information kit made available by the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail on the measures put in place by the employer in the context of COVID-19, as provided in French only, as well as its publication on preventive measures by alert level (also available in French only) which contains guidelines for green zones.
Pursuant to the provisions of section 481 of the Cities and Towns Act and section 981 of the Municipal Code, a municipality may, by resolution, change the interest rate applicable on tax arrears for the remainder of the year. Since it may use this power as many times as it deems appropriate, such an amendment could also apply during the period determined by the municipality. However, if a municipality's interest rate has been previously decreed by order, it would be preferable to use a regulatory procedure again to change the rate. In such a case, if there are doubts about the choice of procedure, the municipality should consult its legal counsel.
Under section 250.1 of the Act respecting municipal taxation, a municipality may decree the rescinding of the penalty it had set on tax arrears for the remainder of the current year.
Under section 252 of the Act respecting municipal taxation, a municipality may also, by order, change the schedule of remaining payments of tax accounts or extend the deadlines for such payments.
Yes, while municipalities are normally prevented by law from passing deficit budgets, there are legal procedures in place enabling municipalities to make up a deficit when it is anticipated at the end of the fiscal year. The Act provides, among other things, that a deficit may be consolidated by a borrowing order. Where applicable, it may also be absorbed by the accumulated surpluses of the municipality.
Of course, considering the principle that the municipality must ensure that sufficient credits are available before authorizing an expenditure, the recourse to a deficit must be based on exceptional circumstances. Municipalities facing a possible deficit due to the consequences of the current COVID-19 pandemic could thus benefit from the terms and conditions mentioned above.
The Municipal Taxation Act (section 15) allows assessors or their representatives to visit any property to verify the accuracy of the information concerning it.
The visiting of property provided for in the Municipal Taxation Act is authorized. However, in the current context, it is essential that these visits be carried out in compliance with the directives of the public health authorities and the rules of social distancing.
Moreover, the Ordre des évaluateurs agréés du Québec has issued instructions to its members on this subject. Thus, the inspection of a building occupied during the last six days by a person carrying or suspected of carrying COVID-19 should be postponed. If the inspection of the building is deemed opportune, the inspector should give preference to wearing appropriate protective equipment.
Also, depending on the circumstances and taking into account the building in question, the Ordre's standards of practice allow, in the event that it is impossible to carry out a complete examination of a building, the use of other data collection methods such as obtaining missing information by means of a written statement from the owner.
Please note that the measures in force differ according to the alert level of the region concerned.
As of July 6, 2020, the videotaping of public bids was no longer required in order to open them. This social distancing measure, which was adopted in accordance with Order No. 2020-014 of April 2, 2020, was repealed in favour of the opening of public bids before witnesses and other persons, as provided for in municipal legislation. As a result, it is no longer necessary to post a video recording of the opening of bids on the electronic tendering system known as the SEAO.
It should be noted, however, that in circumstances where a large number of people attend an opening of public bids, the municipal body should take the necessary steps to comply with public health measures in terms, in particular, of the number of people admitted and the social distancing required.
Yes, the sale of immovables by public auction for non-payment of taxes is permitted as long as the general rules concerning gatherings are respected. The resumption of the sale process of immovables for non-payment of taxes can be accomplished by setting a date for the sale and publishing a public notice to announce it. The sale must take place at least 15 days after the publication of the notice.
Municipal bodies may hold public meetings, in compliance with public health measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. To guarantee the right of any interested person to be heard in the context of the pandemic, however, any public meeting must be accompanied by a written consultation (Order No.2020-049 of July 4, 2020). This written consultation must be announced by public notice, ideally the same notice that announces the meeting, and the receipt of comments lasts until the meeting is adjourned.
It is also possible to dispense with a public meeting and replace it with a 15-day written consultation. In this case, the procedure must also be announced in advance by public notice.
The Ministère recommends that this public notice
- describe the project that was to be the subject of a meeting but is instead the subject of a call for written comments.
- specify the web address at which a detailed presentation of the project is to be posted or any other means by which this detailed presentation can be accessed.
- indicate that any person may submit written comments, by email or regular mail, for 15 days following publication of the notice.
In addition, as is the case in normal times, a municipality may consult its citizens by additional means if it so wishes (e.g., by videoconference).
When a municipality has adopted a public participation policy in accordance with sections 80.1 to 80.5 of the Act respecting land use planning and development, it may in green zone replace all face-to-face consultation and participation measures with a written consultation lasting 15 days.
If the municipality initiates face-to-face consultation or participation, these must be accompanied by a written consultation. In fact, under Order No. 2020-049 of July 4, 2020, any procedure other than a referendum that is part of the decision-making process of a municipal body and that involves the movement or gathering of citizens must be accompanied by a written consultation, announced in advance by public notice, which ends at the same time as the procedure it accompanies.
The Act respecting land use planning and development provides that "any interested person may be heard by the council" when the council must decide on an application for a minor exemption or conditional use.
Unless the municipality denies public access to council meetings for public health reasons or because all the elected officials are participating in the session from a distance, council should be able to hear interested persons before deciding on a minor variance or conditional use application.
However, under Order No. 2020-049, a municipality that intends to rule on such an application must also hold a written consultation on the application. This consultation must be announced in the public notice concerning the holding of the meeting at which the application will be studied (145.6 and 145.33 of the Act respecting land use planning and development). The receipt of comments lasts until council makes a decision on the application.
Since, under the Act, public notices of a minor exemption or conditional use application must be published at least 15 days before the council meeting, there is no distinction between a written consultation accompanying the regular procedure and a written consultation replacing the regular procedure.
Under Order No. 2020-049, it is therefore possible to hold a written consultation in lieu of the regular procedure and, consequently, not to hear interested persons at the council meeting.
However, the Ministère recommends that municipalities not replace the regular process and allow interested persons to be heard at the council meeting, either in person or by various means of communication (telephone, video-conference, chat, email).
It is possible for referendum proceedings to be conducted under certain conditions. In particular, during a public health emergency, the process of signing the register is replaced by a remote referendum application process and any referendum poll must be held by correspondence. Any necessary adaptations must be made to prevent the movement and gathering of citizens.
Land use planning and development
With regard to land-use planning regulations, qualified voters may file an application for a referendum and subsequent stages may unfold according to certain specific procedures, explained below.
For any other draft order, qualified voters may file an application for a referendum and subsequent stages may unfold according to certain specific procedures, explained below.
Referendum applications - Council adopts a second draft order after the written consultation when the draft order contains provisions that are subject to referendum approval. The municipality then publishes a public notice stating that applications may be submitted.
Afterwards, qualified voters may file an application for a referendum. The transmission of such applications to the municipality does not require travel or gathering. Various methods allow citizens to prepare applications signed by a number of qualified voters without contact. In this regard, the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Habitation invites municipalities to show flexibility and to receive all applications transmitted, whether individually or by petition, in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
The number of applications normally required to establish a register, as provided for in the Act respecting land use planning and development, is applicable.
This step should not be confused with the period for receiving written applications for referendum polling, which replaces the register (see next section).
Registration procedure - The procedure for registering qualified voters is replaced by a 15-day period for receiving written applications for referendum polling. This measure is intended to prevent people from having to travel to sign a register.
This measure is intended to prevent people from travelling to sign a register.
The provisions of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities (AERM) and its regulations remain applicable to this procedure, with the necessary adaptations to avoid travel and gatherings of citizens.
Municipalities should follow these directives:
- Municipalities should receive all applications, whether sent by regular mail or email, in web form or in paper version, as long as they include the documents and information required to establish
- The thresholds for holding a referendum are those currently set out in section 553 of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities.
The Ministère is making available (in French only) a guide to the application procedure for a referendum vote replacing the registration procedure for qualified voters (QV), as well as templates that take into account Order No 2020-033 for
- a public notice to all QVs in the municipality as regards undertaking a referendum application procedure (available in French only).
- a public notice to the QVs in a sector as regards undertaking a referendum application procedure (available in French only).
- an application form for a referendum ballot (available in French only).
Referendum poll - Unless council suspends or withdraws the draft by-law that has been the subject of a sufficient number of applications, the referendum will be held.
Pursuant to Order No. 2020-033 of May 7, 2020, the vote must be conducted entirely in accordance with the procedures set out in the Regulation respecting voting by mail (chapter E-2.2, r.3), for all qualified voters and without prior formalities. For example, qualified voters residing or not residing on the territory of the municipality shall vote by mail, and it is not necessary for any qualified voter to apply to vote in this manner. In addition, the council does not have to adopt a resolution allowing the exercise of voting by mail.
The duration of the mail-in voting is usually set according to the "physical" polling day. However, since the referendum is to be held solely by mail, a polling day is set for the sole purpose of enforcing the deadlines for the conduct of the referendum. In order to allow additional time for the exercise of the right to vote under these special conditions, the period for voting by correspondence is extended to the seventh day following the day fixed for voting. Qualified voters will therefore have up to 18 days to transmit their voting envelope.
The provisions of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities (AERM) and its regulations remain applicable to this procedure, with the necessary adaptations to avoid travel and gatherings of citizens.
Borrowing regulations, credit commitments, and the creation of financial reserves
As is normally the case, qualified voters do not have to submit applications to open a register for draft borrowing orders, loan commitments, or the creation of financial reserves.
For these projects, when the Act provides that they are subject to referendum approval, the municipality will initiate a written application procedure for a referendum poll to replace the register, as described above for draft land use planning and development orders. The referendum poll, if applicable, also follows the same steps - it is therefore held by mail-in ballot.
The Ministère will soon make available documents providing more specific guidance on how to proceed with these registration and mail-in ballot processes.
The application guide for the referendum application procedure (guide d’application de la procédure de demande de scrutin référendaire (available in French only)) and the templates provided above, in the section on land use planning and development, may be useful for these processes.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing must approve all borrowing orders, as is customary.
Municipal territorial organization
The Act respecting municipal territorial organization provides for the possibility of a referendum approval process in certain situations (municipal mergers, change of name, change of status, territorial annexation, attachment to a regional county municipality [RCM], etc.).
However, this process shall occur only if the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing so orders, on the date set by the latter. The Minister could choose to wait until the end of the public health emergency to implement such a referendum process. The process would then be suspended until further notice. The Minister could also choose to order the referendum despite the public health emergency, in which case the vote would be conducted by mail-in ballot.
The context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the applicable public health guidelines mean that a significant portion of consultation activities will be conducted online or in writing.
In this context, municipalities should be particularly concerned about the protection of personal information. For example, the personal address and telephone number of a project proponent or a speaker at a public consultation session should not be made public. A municipality may redact documents pertaining to the public consultation without undermining public participation or the transparency of the process.
These guidelines apply regardless of the process in question (e.g., zoning by-law amendment, hog farming project, planning amendment, etc.).
An RCM must comply with the conditions for using the fund set out in the Agreement respecting the Fonds régions et ruralité, part 2 - support for the local and regional development jurisdiction of RCMs (hereinafter referred to as "the Agreement").
An RCM that does not comply with the conditions set out in the Agreement is in default.
In the event of default, the Minister may take various measures listed in clause 71 of the Agreement.
As an example, here are the main conditions that the RCM has committed to respecting:
The RCM may not award a grant to a private firm exceeding 50% of the total eligible expenses of the supported project (clause 30).
The RCM may not use RRF funds to make loans.
Expenses incurred to support a project in the retail or restaurant sector are not eligible, except for local services (clause 29 and Appendix A). The notion of proximity service must be consistent with the rules that the RCM has established on this subject (clause 20.3).
No expenses related to projects already carried out are eligible.
A plan or support measures must be integrated into the RCM's intervention priorities for the current year. If necessary, the RCM may update its priorities by resolution, publish them on its website, and forward them to the Minister (clauses 13.1 and 18 of the Agreement).
The plan or measures must be integrated into the RCM's business support policy and its support policy for structuring projects to improve its communities. If necessary, the RCM may update its policies, publish them on its website, and forward them to the Minister (clauses 13.2 and 20 to 23 of the Agreement).
The regional offices of the ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation are available to assist the municipal community with any questions on this subject.
The holding of such an assembly must comply with the measures applicable to gatherings in the context of COVID-19, in particular with regard to the number of persons who may gather in a private or public place. The possibility of holding meetings at a distance is also maintained. The choice to use one or the other of these means will be made by each co-ownership, according to the decision-making rules in force.
Under order 2020-029 of April 26, 2020, it is possible to hold any meeting, session, or assembly that must be held in person, including meetings of co-owners and meetings of the board of directors of a co-ownership, using technological means that allow all participants to communicate immediately with each other.
Where, in accordance with the law, a secret ballot is requested by a member of the assembly, it may be conducted by any means of communication agreed upon by all participants, including by telephone, email, or any other means allowing members to convey their votes to the person in charge of the vote. Thus, where all members concur, it is not necessary that the means used for the secret ballot fully preserve its secrecy or allow it to be subsequently verified.
In the absence of such a consensus, the secret ballot must be conducted by any means that both collects the votes in such a way that they can be subsequently verified and preserves their secret nature. An example of such a means would be a web-based survey platform created specifically for this purpose on which votes can be counted while maintaining the anonymity of the voters. On the other hand, forwarding votes to a voting official by any means in which members can be identified, such as personal email, does not maintain secrecy.
Procedural debates arising from the use of such means at the meeting may be mediated by the chairperson of the meeting.
Last update: July 14, 2021