Q + A with Bill Buholzer

Practice Point


Bill BuholzerBill Buholzer talks to us about his classic portable guide to BC local government laws: Local Government: A British Columbia Legal Handbook.

This website says Local Government: A British Columbia Legal Handbook is essential for “all members of municipal councils and regional boards, officers and employees of local government, and practitioners and others who deal with local government”. Why would councillors want a legal handbook such as this?
Councillors have personal legal rights in relation to such matters as voting at council meetings, and personal legal obligations in relation to such matters as conflict of interest. Not many local governments are able to provide thorough familiarization with the basic legal principles. A handbook like this enables councillors to look up the relevant information, whenever the need for it arises during their term of office.

Which topics in the book do you think are most compelling for councillors and employees of local governments?
For councillors, the chapter on municipal governance is probably most important; it deals with how the council operates and how decisions are made. For employees, the chapters on local government services and regulatory powers are likely of most interest because these are the topics that are least intuitive. What local governments can and cannot do as regards services to the public and the regulation of private individuals is very much based on legislation, and the legislation is constantly evolving.

How is your book different from similar resources?
The print version is small and portable, and very friendly to sticky notes. It’s updated pretty regularly. It covers a lot of topics without getting into tedious detail.

Your book has been widely circulated since the late 1990s, and you’ve updated it regularly. What’s new in the 2015 edition?
This edition incorporates all of the changes in the election campaign financing legislation, and anticipates what will be happening with the Building Act. As usual, there are references to very recent court decisions.

You’re a prolific author… what has been your primary motivation for writing so much about local government law in British Columbia?
People who work in crafts like woodworking will tell you that the most important part of their craft is making tools they need in their work. As a local government lawyer in the early years of practice I found that the basic tools that I needed to do my work—an index to municipal legislation, for example—were not available, so I wrote them myself, and then I found that other practitioners found them useful as well. I enjoy the writing process for its own sake, so that makes it easy.

Why did you change the title of the book in 2015?
Referring to it as a legal handbook gives a more accurate idea of what it’s about.

Can you give any examples of potential developments to watch for in the coming years, which may be incorporated in the next edition?
The fleshing out of what the Province has in mind for the new Building Act will be important. I don’t think the Province is through with changes to local government election legislation, or addressing the issue of community amenity contributions in relation to zoning. The reorganization of the Local Government Act via the statute revision process will have to be addressed in the next edition.