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A public hearing is the official opportunity for Mayor and Council to hear from the community about a potential building or change to a building that would require the land to have a different zoning (designation) OR when the municipality wants to adopt an Official Community Plan (a map of all the zonings for all the land in the community). The public hearing is required under the Local Government Act in BC and can only be waived when an application for development meets the pre-approved zoning in the Official Community Plan.


Public hearings in British Columbia were established to provide a public voice in the land use decision-making process and are one of the tools local governments use to practice core elements of democracy. However, they are also spaces where many of the current challenges that threaten our democracy – such as polarization and an erosion of trust in institutions – are sometimes visible. BC’s public hearings, in their current format, are often viewed as a performative battleground exercise that leaves people angry and apathetic towards their local government. In some cases—such as hearings over affordable housing projects—the open microphone format invites speeches that can raise racial and class tensions and increase polarization.


One hundred years after the creation of the public hearing, many voices are asking to revisit its purpose and process for local governments. SFU's Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue developed this project in response.

Illustration of city councillor with hand to ear listening
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