Types of municipalities in Alberta

Learn about the different classifications of municipalities in the province.


There are 3 general categories of municipalities in Alberta: urban, rural and specialized.

For detailed information and maps about particular municipalities, check the Municipal Profiles page. To find out who to contact in your municipality, check the Municipal Officials Directory.

Urban municipal governments

Alberta's urban municipalities consist of areas where there is a concentration of people and residential dwellings. The Municipal Government Act describes the characteristics of the different types of urban municipalities: cities, towns, villages and summer villages. To learn more about urban municipal governments see Alberta Municipalities.


There are 19 municipalities in Alberta that have been granted city status. Cities may establish ward systems with the same number of councillors in each ward. Candidates, or those elected to the municipal council, are not required to be residents of the wards they represent. Cities are governed by a mayor who is elected at large and an even number of councillors. There should always be an odd number of people on council to avoid tie votes. Elections for cities and all local government units are held every 4 years.


Under the Municipal Government Act, a town is governed by a mayor and 6 councillors, unless the council passes a bylaw specifying a different, odd number of councillors. Presently, the size of most councils in Alberta towns is 5 or 7 councillors. The mayor and councillors are required to be residents to serve on their municipal council, and they are elected at-large unless council passes a bylaw requiring the mayor to be appointed from among the councillors. There are a total of 105 towns in Alberta.


The council of a village consists of 3 councillors, one of whom is the mayor, unless the council passes a bylaw specifying a different, odd number of councillors. There are 80 villages in Alberta.

Summer villages

Generally, the provisions related to a village apply to a summer village except that in the latter, elections and annual meetings are required to be held in the summer months. Those who own property in the summer village and others over age 18 who reside in the summer village on election day are entitled to vote. However, electors for school representation, if any, must be defined as resident. A summer village is the only type of municipality where a person can vote twice in municipal elections: once in the summer village and once in the municipality where their permanent residence is located. Summer villages can no longer be established in Alberta. There are 51 summer villages in Alberta.

Specialized municipalities

Specialized municipalities are unique municipal structures that can be formed without resorting to special Acts of the Legislature. Often, specialized municipalities allow urban and rural communities to coexist in a single municipal government. There are 6 specialized municipalities in Alberta. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Strathcona County are 2 examples of specialized municipalities.

Municipal districts

A municipal district or county is a municipal government formed in rural areas of the province. It includes farmlands, unincorporated communities such as hamlets, and rural residential subdivisions. The council consists of one councillor per ward, one of whom is elected by council as reeve. Candidates, or those elected to the municipal council, are required to be residents of the wards they represent. Presently, the number of wards varies from 4 to 11, with the most common being 7. There are 63 municipal districts in Alberta. To learn more about municipal districts see Rural Municipalities of Alberta.


The council of a municipal district or specialized municipality can designate an unincorporated community that is within its boundaries to be a hamlet. A community can be a hamlet if it consists of 5 or more dwellings, has a generally accepted boundary and name, and contains land that is used for non-residential purposes.

Improvement districts

The province, through Alberta Municipal Affairs (or Alberta Forestry and Parks for the Kananaskis Improvement District), is responsible for all functions of local government in the improvement districts. These districts are generally subject to the provisions of the Municipal Government Act as is any other municipality, and the minister has the authority of the municipal council with some exceptions.

In total, there are 7 improvement districts located in the province, with 5 located in national parks:

  • 4 (Waterton) Lakes
  • 9 (Banff)
  • 12 (Jasper)
  • 13 (Elk Island)
  • 24 (Wood Buffalo)

Two are located in provincial parks:

  • 25 (Willmore Wilderness Park)
  • Kananaskis Improvement District

For more information, see the Improvement districts page.

Metis Settlements

There are 8 Metis Settlements in Alberta covering a total area of approximately 1.25 million acres (0.5 million ha). There are presently about 5,000 Métis people residing in the settlements. These are the only Metis settlement corporations established under the Metis Settlements Act.

Special areas

Special Areas refers to a rural area in southeast Alberta administered by a board of 4 people appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (Cabinet). Technically, there are 3 Special Areas in southeast Alberta, but for simplicity and in accordance with the common usage these are referred to as one unit.

The areas were established under the Special Areas Act in 1938 due to extreme hardship of the drought years of the 1930s. The Special Areas Board was mandated to provide municipal services and supports in place to enable this region to recover and thrive. Like a municipal government, the Special Areas Board looks after roads and parks, provides water and emergency services, manages public land and community pastures, and develops economic development and agricultural conservation strategies. The Special Areas Act of 1938 has remained relatively unchanged, although there were some amendments made in 1966 and 1985. An advisory council of 13 members is elected in accordance with the Local Authorities Election Act.

The population of the Special Areas is about 4,500 people. The land area of about 5.1 million acres (2,063,896 ha) is comprised of 2.5 million acres (1,011,714 ha) of privately held land, 1.6 million acres (647,497 ha) of Crown land and one million acres (404,686 ha) of tax recovery land.

There are several agreements between the Special Areas and the urban municipalities within it. These agreements cover fire protection, ambulance, library, recreation, regional waste collection, limited family and community services, and the development and operation of medical centres.

First Nations reserves

A reserve is not a part of any municipality. The British North America Act of 1867, places exclusive legislative authority on matters related to Indigenous peoples and reserves with the federal government.

The reserves, which range in size from 1,089 acres (441 ha) to 354,667 acres (143,532 ha), have a total area of 1,622,630 acres (656,669 ha). All but the smallest 2 reserves are occupied.


Connect with the Municipal Services Division of Alberta Municipal Affairs:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-2225
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]