While climate change manifests itself as a global phenomenon, impacts are experienced most acutely at the local scale. As a result, the onus of responding to climate change impacts through planning policies and practice falls on local government decision-makers. This qualitative study, based in Charlottetown, Canada, utilizes the framework of resilience theory to examine the relationship between systems, agents, and institutions in addressing climate vulnerability to build community resilience. Findings suggest that while non-municipal agents such as senior orders of government and external organizations are championing proactive adaptation through climate impact research and adaptation initiatives, the municipality has taken a non-urgent, reactionary approach in the face of climate stressors, often implementing initiatives that further exacerbate climate vulnerability. In the face of system vulnerabilities and cascading failures, deep institutional barriers, influencing and influenced by agents, contribute to the low prioritization of climate adaptation action. Institutional and agent-induced constraints at the municipal scale have led to the lack of internal initiative to act within the municipality, undermining the efforts of external organizations and senior orders of government. This study highlights the importance of robust local government agents and institutions as a prerequisite to enable local-scale climate adaptation.