Municipal Government

Canadian Municipalities

Municipalities in Canada are not entrenched in the Constitution. Never has been. That means they are vulnerable to the political whims of the upper tiers of province and federal decisions.

Effectiveness, economies of scale, terms and rates, lack of equity among municipal governments, effective accountabilityare all issues that face one in municipal governments. With municipal government not entrenched in the constitution, receiving an appropriate amount of the fiscal pie to meet demands is daunting.

The three E’s effectiveness, efficiency, economy in provision of services, facilities and programs are crucial to a viable community.

Equity: fairness in the distribution of revenue resources. Disentanglement of intergovernmental responsibilities. Dual accountability to provincial municiple affairs departments and to the electorate. Sustain the diversity of the community. Municipalities are a matter of provincial statute, subject quite unilaterally to change by the legislature. Provincial wide standards – public services – economy, environment and justice in application of law. Weak constitutional position of munincipalities.

Housing, environment, social welfare and policing have a joint three-level responsibility.

The allocation of government resources and the balancing of priorities should be done by elected local bodies. Existing government structures should be explored to the fullest before resorting to special purpose bodies.

Tax credits: poor entitlement on income tax return, to establish property tax as a proportional tax.

Characteristics of a good tax, evenly distributed for fairness, easy method of collection, visible for acountability and you know how much you pay every year. Speak in camara to prevent fear of libel.

Conflict of interest: when employer has pecuniary interest, so does employee. Declare conflict of interest at beginning of agenda. We must look toward a new regime which empowers citizens and local governments. We must maintain and enhance our sophistication and innovation as judgements rest on ourselves rather than big brother at the provincial government level effective, cost-efficient, directly accountable, representative and responsible, in such a permissive, rather than prescriptive environment. We need responsible leadership more now than ever.

Special purpose bodies

Municipal governments deal with agencies, boards, commissions, and voluntary associations which have a degree of autonomy from local government. Agencies, boards and commissions have no authority to tax. Most funds are from local government.

Police, public health and children’s aid have been our inheritance since before local government. At the turn of the century planning, hydro, water and sewers were the main issues. We need to ask ourselves whether we need a separate hydro commission when the city engineer can we have our own engineers on tap. Economical efficiency and effectiveness can only be achieved by innovative thinking, leadership and cooperation among people and groupings of all kinds. We need at the municipal level a more entrepreneurial philosophy which embraces total quality management which requires absolute accountability within the city council and within the special purpose bodies. We have gone too far in separating special purpose bodies from policy decisions by the municipality which is providing funding.

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