Canadian Municipal Administration

Municipal government is not entrenched in the Canada Constitution Act. The province can withdrw this structure at any time. City/municipal Council forms Committees and direct the Departments. The Chief Administrative Officer has less control than the American counter-part, relying on providing perspective to the members and votes only to break a tie vote. For the American mayor, the role is of the city manager, leader. The more American system runs like this:

1.No special purpose bodies, no committees.
2.Council, small council, non-partisan election.
3.City manager.
4.Departments.

Economic Development liase with existing businesses to ensure existing businesses are happy, take part in new business development. Inventory of available land is within the planning department.

Problems crop up in municipal administration:
1.Built-in fragmentation: intergovernmental, political leadership, special purpose bodies, departmental.
2.Staff development: because of departmental fragmentation, can’t shift to other departments, can’t get an overall view for planning.
3.Development of management: operational, support, no one knows the whole development structure except CAO.
4.Council-staff relations. How can proper relationship between council and staff be maintained? How can council and staff develop a positive working relationship? Eg.- no separation of policy and administration. Avoid loss of trust. Not to be criticized in public or they will not give best advice but advice you want to hear.

Politics and policy are separated from administration. Politicians make policy decisions. Public servants execute these decisions.

Public servants are appointed and promoted on the basis of merit, rather than on relationships with any group of councillors (however, that may happen at smaller centres), avoiding political activity at the local level and would be wise to avoid activity at the federal and provincial levels as well. Councillors may be involved federally or provincially.

Public servants provide objective advice to their political masters openly and honestly. They make recommendations presenting all available options in a balanced manner. In return, politicians recognize that administrators are using their best judgement and do not criticize them in public for providing honest and forthright advice.

Public servants execute policy decisions loyally, irrespective of their personal views; as a result, public servants enjoy freedom from public criticism by councillors and security of tenure during good behaviour and satisfactory performance. Managers live their lives in the world of politics, and their success as managers is based on their ability to adapt, survive and handle this milieu. Loss of trust with council is one’s death-knell, not the technical things of the job. At the federal level, Sheila Copps said it well: (Worth Fighting For, McClelland & Stewart, Ltd., T.O., 2004, 103) as Minister of Environment, Sheila demanded action from the assistant deputy minister. In response, “Minister, I have outlived seven of your predecessors and I expect I will outlive you. I have to get along [survive] in this town.”

Councillors’ complaints about staff:
1.resist new ideas,
2.too controlling, prevent councillor from presenting new ideas,
3.too slow, lots of research for a couple of pages,
4.unclear reports and advice.

Staff complaints about Council:
1.vague direction with different signals from different people,
2.vacillation,
3.ignore advice, making political choice,
4.public criticism of staff by Councillors.

Our traditional concept holds that it is politicians on top and experts on tap whereas there is a clear division of policy and administration. It is evident that local government is different. Council is seen as ‘a group of anarchists unified by a common parking lot’ in which the executive is not unified. Staff is working for a group of individuals. A local public servant can state a position on an issue, not confidential advice as with provincial or federal governance. Locals work person to person, yet in memos (a group exercise) when a federal or provincial public servant.
Phases of policy-making:

1.The agenda is set with development of policy by staff and council.
2.Around the table, adopt policy.
3.Once the policy is set and ready to go, the staff are dominant to implement said policy. Oversight mechanisms are necessary for the wise councillor to avoid too much “slippage.”

Politicians feel the need to be involved in administration to deal with complaints. Administrators are involved in policy to alert the councillors of administrative issues, assist in setting the agenda, give policy advice, reveal implementation issues to “tweek” policy for maximum effectiveness, and provide evaluation of policy.

Public servants are involved in policy development beyond purely technical advice, and policy implementation subject to imprecise council direction, and a need to negotiate with affected interests to avoid political debate with citizen’s groups.

Role of Senior Management
1.operational over daily issues,
2.to support council, every situation is new with each encounter,
3.development for the future, encourage council planning.

Modes of Interaction:
1.written reports by staff
2.verbal reports as staff respond to questions, directed through the chair to prevent debate with councillor on top and staff on tap.
3.Questions.
4.Meetings.

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