Repeal, Rescind, Reconsider

As the level of government that is closest to the people, municipalities and regional districts are often the first governments to respond to novel or emerging problems and issues that are of concern to their electorates. Frequently, initial responses to such problems need to be re-thought and in some cases reversed, as the novel issue becomes more thoroughly understood. Even with longstanding issues and problems, the accessibility of the decision-making process to the electorate and the relative ease with which resolutions and bylaws can be adopted makes it more likely that decisions at the local level will be made hastily. Small quorums can result in decisions that don’t reflect the will of the municipal council or regional board majority as it would be expressed when all members are present, leading to initiatives to have decisions from previous meetings reconsidered. Local government elections are generally held more frequently than elections at other levels of government, resulting in more frequent opportunities for decision-makers to seek to reverse the decisions of their predecessors in order to carry out electoral mandates. These features of local government decision-making make changing legislative direction a relatively common occurrence at the local level. There are several procedures that can be used to change direction. The purpose of this paper is to place each of these procedures in its context, explore some of the issues that can arise in relation to each, to provide suggestions as to which procedure ought to be used in particular circumstances, and to give special attention to the peculiar phenomenon of reconsideration, which doesn’t exist at the senior levels of government.

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