Municipal Affairs


Municipalities have the power to regulate daily life, ensure public order, collect taxes, carry out public projects, and deliver local services.

You can count on the expertise of our lawyers to explain the numerous rules governing the municipal apparatus and advise you in all matters related to municipal affairs.


  • Municipal administration
  • Drafting of bylaws and contracts
  • Public tenders
  • Labour relations
  • Permits and certificates
  • Land-use planning
  • Environment and nuisances
  • Municipal services
  • Taxation and assessment
  • Tax collection
  • Acquisitions and sales
  • Expropriation
  • Powers and delegation of powers
  • Protection of persons and property
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Mediation
  • Representation before administrative tribunals and the superior courts
  1. New provisions governing disguised expropriation in the Act respecting land use planning and development: Impact of the declaratory effect and transitional provisions

    On December 6, 2023, an amendment to the Act to amend the Act respecting municipal taxation and other legislative provisions1(“Bill 39”)was adopted during a clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 39 in parliamentary committee. Two days later, the Bill received assent. This amendment introduced new provisions to circumscribe the circumstances in which a municipality’s use of one of its powers may be considered disguised expropriation,2 particularly when the power exercised is provided for in the Act respecting land use planning and development3 (the “Act”). Legislative framework for disguised expropriation Certain provisions have been codified in the new section 245 of the Act, in line with case law on disguised expropriation.4 The Act now expressly states that a planning by-law may restrict the exercise of a right of ownership, without giving rise to an indemnity, unless the restrictions are so severe as to prevent any reasonable use of an immovable.5 It has now been established by law that a municipality’s act affecting the use of an immovable creates no obligation to indemnify under article 952 of the Civil Code of Québec6  (“C.C.Q.”). To enable municipalities to exercise their role in protecting the environment, as well as the health and safety of people and property, a presumption is now applied in their favour to the effect that the infringement of a right of ownership is justified solely insofar as it results from an act that meets one of the conditions listed in paragraph 3 of section 245 of the Act. The presumption thus applies when the expropriator demonstrates that the purpose of the act is to: protect wetlands and bodies of water; protect another environment of high ecological value; or that the act is necessary to ensure human health or safety or the safety of property.7 Declaratory effect A noteworthy change is that the new section 245 of the Act is declaratory, meaning that it has a retroactive effect. Generally, the principle of interpretation is that new laws have no retroactive effect, as set out in the Interpretation Act.8 The intention behind making section 245 of the Act declaratory was to give the provision retroactive effect from the date that it came into force. It is important to note that this declaratory effect is absolute, such that the courts are bound to comply with it, as if the section had always existed and had such effect. It cannot therefore be associated with the general rule that legislation is prospective, meaning that it only has an effect in the future.9 In enacting declaratory legislation, the legislature assumes the role of a court and dictates the interpretation of its own law, such that it becomes akin to binding precedents10. As a result, such legislation may overrule a court decision in the same way that a Supreme Court decision would take precedence over a previous line of lower court judgments on a given question of law.11 That being said, the declaratory effect of the Act’s new section 245 will only apply to disputes instituted since its coming into force and before December 8, 2023, as well as to cases taken under advisement by a trial judge, and cases that are pending and under advisement before the Court of Appeal of Quebec. It will therefore not be possible to apply to have a judgment that has acquired the effect of res judicata amended by invoking this declaratory effect. Incidentally, as recently as January 2024, the Court of Appeal decided to allow a municipality appealing a decision raising issues related to the content of Bill 39, to add further arguments to the existing appeal brief.12 According to the appellant municipality, the “new law” would have the effect of sealing the fate of the case in question.13 Various other amendments Other provisions also include amendments related to the conditions described above. Technically speaking, the provisions of Bill 39 relating to expropriation came into force as soon as it received assent. However, the transitional provisions created certain exceptions. Firstly, as of June 8, 2024,14 municipalities will be required to send a notice to the owner of an immovable concerned by an act referred to in one of the three presumptions. Such notice must be sent within three months of the date of entry into force of the act.15 Secondly, the owner of an immovable who has suffered an infringement of their right of ownership that prevents all reasonable use of the immovable may now bring a proceeding before the Superior Court for the payment of an indemnity under article 952 of the C.C.Q. Such a proceeding is prescribed three years after the date of coming into force of the act. This period began to run on December 8, 2023, for regulations in force on that date, without extending periods that had already begun to run. Finally, it is important to note that it is now possible for a municipality that has been found guilty of disguised expropriation to acquire the immovable concerned. The municipality can therefore decide to acquire the immovable or put a stop to the infringement of the right of ownership.16 Under the transitional provisions, in any dispute where the judge has not taken the matter under advisement by December 7, 2023, the Court must consider these rules concerning the possibility for a municipality to put an stop to an infringement of the right of ownership.17 Conclusion The sections added to the Act under Bill 39 provide a framework for interpreting and applying the principle of disguised expropriation. The declaratory effect was clearly intended to accommodate municipal authorities wishing to benefit from the principles of this new legislation in pending cases. B. 39, 1st Sess., 43rd Legis., Quebec, 2023. The Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation opted instead for the term “expropriation de fait” (de facto expropriation) in the Muni-Express on the adoption of Bill 39 (see the Act to amend the Act respecting municipal taxation and other legislative provisions – Muni-Express ( CQLR, c. A-19.1. Municipalité de Saint-Colomban c. Boutique de golf Gilles Gareau inc., 2019 QCCA 1402; Dupras c. Ville de Mascouche, 2022 QCCA 350. Minister’s comments in support of the amendments to section 245 of the Act. CCQ-1991. New section 245, para. 3 of the Act. CQLR, c. I-16, s. 50 Régie des rentes du Québec v. Canada Bread Company Ltd., 2013 SCC 46. Id., para. 27. Id. Ville de Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville c. Sommet Prestige Canada inc., 2024 QCCA 25, para. 5. Id., para. 1. Bill 39, section 87, para. 1. New section 245.1 of the Act. New section 245.3 of the Act. Bill 39, section 87, para. 2.

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  2. No municipal tax reductions for mining companies

    What is a mine’s equipment? What does it include? What is considered an access road to a mining operation? These are, you might think, simple, perhaps even banal questions.  Think again: the answer to these questions represents the difference between millions of dollars in property taxes pouring into the coffers of municipalities and mining companies across Québec holding on to them. The Administrative Tribunal of Québec (Immovable Property Division) (hereinafter “TAQ”) was confronted by these questions as part of an appeal lodged by Bloom Lake General Partner Limited against the City of Fermont1. The underlying principle is simple: municipal taxation is essentially applied as a function of the values entered on the property assessment roll. It is the responsibility of the assessor2 to determine the composition of each assessment unit, what immovables are to be entered on the property assessment role and what their value is. The law3 provides that certain immovables are not to be entered on the role.  Accordingly, their value has no impact on the taxes that can be collected by municipalities. Among the immovables excluded from the role:  “galleries, shafts, excavations, tunnels the equipment of underground or open mines”4 “an access road to forest or mining operations”5. Hence the importance of the questions asked above. With respect to a mine’s equipment, Bloom Lake argued that the equipment of a mine should be taken to refer to all the steps in the operation of a mine, from the extraction of the ore to its marketing and including its processing. Instead, the TAQ adopted a more limited interpretation of the concept of mine equipment that included only the equipment used to extract the ore. As for the concept of an access road to a mining operation, Bloom Lake claimed that it included all the roads located within the mining operation, i.e. all the roads used by vehicles in the mining operation.  Again here, the claim was not accepted by the TAQ, which instead circumscribed this concept to the road linking the public road to the entry gate of the mining operation. If the TAQ had accepted the Bloom Lake interpretation, it could have had a serious financial impact for mining companies, which would have had a large part of their immovables that are included in their mining operation excluded from the assessment role.6   2018 QCTAQ 04461 Also called Municipal Body Responsible for Assessment” or “MBRA”, sections 19 ff. of the Act respecting municipal taxation. Act respecting municipal taxation (AMT), ss. 63 to 68. In this case, the relevant paragraphs are 65 para 1 (4) and 65 para 1 (8). Section 65 para 1 (4) AMT. Section 65 para1 (8) AMT. It should however be noted that at the time of this writing, the time period for appealing the TAQ decision had not yet expired.      

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  3. Bill 162: An Act to amend the Building Act and other legislative provisions mainly to give effect to certain Charbonneau Commission recommendations

    Tabled on December 1, 2017 by Lise Thériault, the Minister responsible for Consumer Protection and Housing, the main purpose of Bill 162 is to give effect to certain recommendations contained in the final report of the Commission of inquiry on the awarding and management of public contracts in the construction industry. Amendments to the Building Act Firstly, the Bill amends the definition of "officer" contained in the Building Act so as to include any shareholder of a partnership or corporation holding 10% or more of the voting rights attached to its shares, particularly for purposes of the assessment by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (the "Board") of an undertaking’s integrity. The notion of "guarantor" is added to the Building Act to describe a natural person who, by applying for a licence on behalf of a partnership or legal person, or by holding such a licence himself or herself, becomes responsible for managing the activities for which the licence is being issued. In addition, the Board's powers of inquiry, verification and inspection are expanded. Finally, the Act provides for immunity from civil proceedings and protection from reprisals for any person who communicates information in good faith to the Board regarding any act or omission which he or she believes constitutes a violation or offence under the Building Act. Certain penal provisions have also been added for the purpose of sanctioning any person who takes reprisals in response to the disclosure of such information, or who submits false or misleading information to the Board. Additions to the Building Act Secondly, a conviction for certain offences, which already previously warranted restricted access to public contracts, will now lead to a refusal by the Board to issue a licence, and may result in the cancellation or suspension of an existing licence. Furthermore, where such a conviction leads to a person's imprisonment pursuant to a sentence, a licence can only be issued to the person once five years have passed following the end of the said term of imprisonment. The Board will be required to cancel a licence where the licence holder, or any officer of an undertaking holding a licence, is convicted of an offence or any indictable offence referred to in the Building Act, where the said person was already convicted of such an offence or indictable offence within the five preceding years. The Board is given new grounds pertaining to the integrity of undertakings to refuse to issue, suspend or cancel a licence, particularly where the corporate structure of the entity enables it to evade the application of the Building Act. In this regard, the Board is obliged, by regulation, to require any contractor to provide either a performance bond or security for wages, materials and services for the purpose of ensuring construction work continues, or the payment of creditors, in the event of the cancellation or suspension (in certain cases) of a licence. Lastly, a new penal offence for the use of "prête-noms" (nominees) is being added, and the prescription period in penal matters is being extended from one year to three years from the date on which the prosecutor had knowledge of the offence, without however exceeding seven years from the date of commission of the offence. Conclusion This Bill, which notably implements four recommendations of the Charbonneau Commission, will be worth watching when parliamentary proceedings resume in the National Assembly on February 6, 2018.

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  4. A bid’s nonconformity to the eligibility criteria set out in a call for tenders, such as minimum experience, constitutes a major irregularity

    When it comes to presenting a bid in response to a call for tenders made by a public body, two major questions are of interest to businesses concerned, namely “What is the nature of the contract?” and “Does my business conform to the conditions of the call for tenders, for example, those concerning the experience required of tenderers?” Absent the necessary skills in the field contemplated by the call for tenders or the years of experience required to comply with the conditions set out in the invitation to tender, businesses will refrain, obviously, from devoting time to a tender process they know they have no chance of winning. But what happens when a public body fails to comply with the conditions it itself deemed “essential”, whether explicitly or implicitly? Traditionally, courts would analyze such situations by attempting to characterize the default of the bid impugned for not respecting all the tender conditions as a “minor” or a “major” irregularity. However, in two consecutive decisions handed down within three months of each other, the Québec Court of Appeal repositioned the debate on different elements that are to be considered when analyzing the conformity of a bid. In its most recent decision, it even innovated by adding a new dimension to the manner in which the concept of “fairness among tenderers” is to be considered when analyzing the conformity of tenders. This text proposes a combined analysis of the decisions in Ville de Matane c. Jean Dallaire, architectes & EBC inc. 1 and Tapitec inc. c. Ville de Blainville 2 rendered by the Court of Appeal on November 25, 2016 and February 24, 2017, respectively. Ville de Matane c. Jean Dallaire, architectes & EBC inc. The City of Matane invited tenders for the building of a sports complex. One of the fundamental conditions of the call for tenders was that tenderers have experience in connection with at least three projects of comparable scale and complexity. This condition was characterized as “essential” in the invitation to tender. Despite this requirement, the City awarded the contract to a business that did not possess the required experience and that, to the City’s knowledge, only had experience in small-scale residential and institutional projects. EBC Inc., another bidder, sought to have the resolution awarding the contract annulled on grounds of the successful bidder’s lack of experience vis-à-vis the condition set out in the invitation to tender. The City of Matane tried to persuade the Court that the default was a minor irregularity inasmuch as the winning bidder undertook, subsequently to the opening of tenders, to have personnel on its team with sufficient experience to meet the requirement relating to the three projects of comparable scale and complexity set out in the invitation to tender. The Court of Appeal rejected the City’s argument and confirmed that the winning bid’s default did constitute a major irregularity. Indeed, through its own characterization as essential of the condition relating to experience on three projects of comparable scale and complexity, the City of Matane created a mandatory requirement with which compliance had to be demonstrated at the time of tendering. Allowing the winning bidder to prove its experience differently after filing its bid would amount to circumventing the City’s own requirement and would be contrary to the contract as well as to the principle of fairness between bidders. The requirement relating to the experience of tenderers set out in an invitation to tender must therefore be complied with and applied straightforwardly. Once a requirement of an invitation to tender is characterized as “essential”, the public body may not consider a default in relation thereto a “minor irregularity”. On the contrary, such a default necessarily constitutes a major irregularity. Tapitec inc. c. Ville De Blainville In this case, the City of Blainville was looking to have a sports field built with a synthetic grass surface. As it wished to find a highly specialized contractor familiar with the laying of this type of surface, the City of Blainville decided to proceed by way of a qualitative assessment of tenders received rather than automatically awarding the contract to the lowest bidder. As one of its conditions, the City required that tenderers have had a place of business in Québec for at least the past five years. Despite this requirement, the City awarded the contract to a business that had opened a place of business in Québec only two years previously. The Court of Appeal quashed the City’s decision and confirmed that the failure to meet a condition relating to a bidder’s experience, even if such condition is not explicitly characterized as essential, will automatically disqualify a bid, when the circumstances so warrant. This was the case in the City of Blainville’s tender documents which, although they did not contain words such as “essential”, “automatic disqualification” or “fundamental”, set out a condition of having had a place of business in Québec for at least five years, which condition was, according to the Court of Appeal, essential in that it resulted in limiting the number of bidders by imposing mandatory experience or qualification criteria. The Court insists on the effect of such conditions on businesses in their decision of whether or not to tender. As a result, a public body cannot consider such a default as merely a minor irregularity. Hence, the Court of Appeal clearly states that the obligation to accept only a conforming bid is owed as much to parties participating in the tender process as to those who refrained from so doing because they did not conform to the requirements set out in the invitation to tender. By limiting the pool of tenderers through the imposition of an experience requirement, the public body must absolutely reject any bid that does not comply with such requirement. Otherwise, the public body will breach the principle of fairness between bidders, which constitutes a major irregularity and renders its decision challengeable. The requirement relating to the experience of tenderers set out in an invitation to tender is therefore, where the circumstances so warrant, an essential condition from which the public body may not depart. Obviously, each case turns on its facts and a detailed analysis of the tender specifications will be necessary to determine whether the experience requirement is an essential condition. What can be gathered from these two decisions? These two judgments forcefully assert the principle of equality between bidders and the idea that by limiting the number of persons allowed to tender a bid through the imposition of criteria relating to experience or professional qualifications, public bodies make it their duty to abide by such criteria. A requirement characterized as essential in an invitation to tender can never be circumvented and any default in conforming to any such requirement appearing in a bid must automatically result in the disqualification of same. Failing this, bidders who were wrongly passed over will be entitled to claim damages for any injury suffered. Although the question is one to be determined on a case-by-case basis of whether or not a requirement relating to the experience or professional qualifications of bidders is essential, we note that the Court of Appeal seems to be encouraging certain public bodies to reconsider their manner of analyzing the conformity of the bids they receive, taking into account both other bidders and those contractors who may have forgone participation in a process they believed they had no chance of winning. Matane (Ville de) c. Jean Dallaire, Architectes, 2016 QCCA 1912. Tapitec inc. c. Ville de Blainville, 2017 QCCA 317.

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  1. Pier-Olivier Fradette published in La référence by Éditions Yvon Blais

    On July 5, an article analyzing a decision on access to information and written by Pier-Olivier Fradette, an associate of the Public and Administrative Law group, appeared in La Référence, a specialized publication by Éditions Yvon Blais. The article is a commentary on Aréna Marcel Dutil inc. c. Succession de Gagnon, 2017 QCCQ 278426, a decision on whether organizations and committees that gravitate around municipalities are subject to the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information. Click here to read the article (in French only).

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  2. Valérie Belle-Isle and Pier-Olivier Fradette speak at the ADMQ convention

    Valérie Belle-Isle and Pier-Olivier Fradette, lawyers of the Public and Administrative Law group, presented seminars during the Association des directeurs municipaux du Québec (ADMQ) annual convention, held June 14 – 16, 2017 at the Québec City Convention Centre. Me. Fradette spoke on June 15 about the work that a municipality could perform internally. The purpose of the seminar was to analyze the main construction laws and identify situations where a municipality could carry out the work using its own employees without having to hire professionals such as engineers, architects, electricians, plumbers, contractors with an RBQ permit or employees with a CCQ competency certificate. Both Me. Belle-Isle and Me. Fradette spoke during the second seminar, entitled Les zones grises des pouvoirs du conseil municipal (Grey areas in municipal council powers) presented on June 16, which identified situations where the municipal council has been granted broad powers under the Act and offered guidelines to general directors on assisting municipal councils in their decision-making. The three situations discussed were emergency work in the event of superior force, powers of the municipal council during the 30-day period preceding an election and requests to amend by-laws.

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  3. Pier-Olivier Fradette and Charlotte Fortin present recent developments in municipal law

    On March 17, Pier-Olivier Fradette and Charlotte Fortin, lawyers in the Administrative Law group, gave a presentation at the 26th annual conference on recent developments in municipal law organized by the Barreau du Québec. The presentation dealt with the new Act to improve the legal situation of animals and analyzed the novel features of that Act, the standards it maintains from previous legislation, and its impact on the treatment of animals and on municipalities’ powers in the management of domestic animals and stray animals.

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