Changes to the legislation

Since 1970, the Municipal Act has included provisions for BIAs. There have been changes from time to time.  For example, on January 1, 2007, most of the Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 (Bill 130) came into force.  This Act provided municipalities with new powers, flexibility and autonomy to meet local expectations and fulfill responsibilities.

Change highlights

The existing sections of the Municipal Act, 2001 pertaining to Business Improvement Areas continue.  Changes made through the Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 and other amending statutes include:

  • a new subsection was added [204(2.1)] stating that a BIA board of management is a local board
  • provisions allowing municipalities to make changes to their local boards – this may make it easier to address local concerns

Traditionally, a BIA is a body (a corporation) established by a municipality using the specific business improvement area provisions in the Municipal Act, 2001.  It is governed by a board of management.

In this handbook, the term traditional BIA is used to generally describe such a body.

The geographic area designated by a municipality for a BIA, is also sometimes called a BIA.

The City of Toronto Act, 2006 (COTA) now provides the City of Toronto with its own legislation, and there are some differences concerning the topic of BIAs. One of these is that COTA does not have provisions comparable to sections 204- 215 of the Municipal Act, 2001.


Local Boards and other structures, and related responsibilities

Ontario municipalities have flexibility with respect to Business Improvement Areas.  Municipalities can consider the development of local solutions and there is opportunity for the BIA-municipality relationship to grow stronger in order to meet future challenges.  Additionally, there is opportunity for the BIA relationship to develop as a local partnership.

To illustrate, three broad options local entities may consider for establishing or regulating BIAs or similar bodies could be described as:

  • referencing the specific BIA sections in the legislation
  • changing BIAs to put in place unique or local provisions
  • creating new local boards with locally decided characteristics that would undertake similar activities to what a BIA does

Municipalities may also consider economic development corporations as an alternative governance structure to deliver traditional BIA services.

In other words, municipalities and BIAs may consider local options and solutions in connection with BIA issues. These might include, for example, creating, changing or dissolving local boards or other entities - to put in place unique and local arrangements.

It is also important for municipalities and BIAs to consider possible responsibilities in the BIA context, such as the general rules in the legislation for local boards.  One example is the open meetings provisions found in the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and the Municipal Act, 2001.  Further information may be found in the discussion “Understanding the responsibilities of local boards.”

Municipal Service Boards

A municipality may also consider creating a municipal service board to undertake traditional BIA activities. Municipalities can establish municipal service boards and provide for the following matters:

  • the name, composition, quorum and budgetary process of the board
  • the eligibility of persons to hold office as board members
  • the manner of selecting board members, the resignation of members, the determination of when a member’s seat becomes vacant and the filling of vacancies
  • the term of office and remuneration of board members
  • the number of votes of the board members
  • the requirement that the board follow rules, procedures and policies established by the municipality
  • the relationship between the municipality and the board, including their financial and reporting relationship

Municipal service boards (MSB) must be composed of at least two members. The term of office of a MSB member cannot exceed four years, but members may be eligible for appointment for more than one term. Municipal service boards are local boards and would generally be subject to the same rules in the legislation as other local boards are.

The legislation provides generally that municipalities may give a municipal service board the control and management of such services and activities of the municipality as the municipality considers appropriate, and shall do so by delegating the powers and duties of the municipality to the board.

Two or more municipalities can also consider establishing a joint municipal service board.

The City of Toronto Act, 2006 and Chapter 19 of the Toronto Municipal Code

The City of Toronto Act, 2006 , states generally that every BIA board of management continues as a local board of the City, until the board is dissolved by the City (see section 429).

City Council decided to put in place a chapter for BIAs as part of the Toronto Municipal Code (Chapter 19). Chapter 19 includes procedures for the establishment and operation of BIAs.  Topics include:

  • the start-up process
  • notice of a proposed BIA bylaw
  • annual budgets
  • financial procedures and reports
  • funds to be raised and minimum and maximum charges
  • changes to boundaries

The Chapter 19 provisions have some similarity to the Municipal Act.  However, some sections differ or are unique. In addition, some City practices may differ from those of other municipalities. For example:

  • Chapter 19 states Community Councils may be able to establish a Board, where designated by Council. (In fact, Community Councils have been delegated some responsibility by Toronto City Council.  Members generally represent the municipalities that existed prior to amalgamation.)
  • BIAs in practice undertake some activities on private property, such as graffiti removal and safety and security initiatives, with the consent of property owners and approval of the general membership of the BIA.
  • there is reference in Chapter 19 to minor alterations to the boundaries of BIAs. They may be possible by a vote of Council without consulting all BIA members, if the Chapter’s criteria for “minor” alterations, consent and other conditions are met.
  • Chapter 19 states that BIA boards of management shall be composed of one or more members of City Council.  The Chapter also provides that BIA Board composition may include persons who are not BIA members.  Generally, that composition would be limited to 20  percent of the BIA Board, and a non-member would have to be nominated by a BIA member.