July 17th, 2024

New report explores governance options for Alberta municipalities

By Lethbridge Herald on May 27, 2022.

Local government in Alberta cannot be run with a one-size-fits-all approach according to a new report from the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.
 Communities must decide on the governance model that best suits their needs, according to the report. It claims several factors need to be considered when determining which municipal governance arrangement works best for a given community.
On May 11, the School of Public Policy with author Zachary Spicer released the report that examines the three main models, using examples from across Canada. What works well for those particular communities and the advantages and disadvantages of each model based on a set of standard political and economic factors to ensure the comparisons are equitable.
“Finding the right organizational structure to govern local communities is a longstanding concern among public policymakers,” said Spicer in a release. “Because Canada’s communities do not come in one size or shape, different local governance arrangements have emerged throughout our history to organize the delivery of vital services and provide community representation, such as single-tier, two-tier models and service co-operation models.”
The report said each tier comes with benefits and challenges. Single-tier models excel at providing equity in servicing across a jurisdiction and provide clear lines of authority and accountability. They also often fail to contain their entire metropolitan area, leading to spillover effects and the need for other co-ordination mechanisms. The report said two-tier models provide a balance, allowing regional servicing needs to be addressed by an upper tier government, while lower tier governments provide local services, all while effectively capturing economies of scale. This system can often appear chaotic according to the report. Self-organizing models allow some flexibility for municipalities. They also keep municipal autonomy in place and allow for the provision of service and policy continuity without the need for provincial intervention the report claims.
“These types of arrangements have implications for how a municipality is governed and financed,” said Spicer, “Underlying these concerns are factors such as local identity, culture, and values. Policymakers must take into consideration each community’s unique features to determine which governance model would be best suited for the municipality in question.”
The report said determining the best model to use depends on a variety of factors, including geography, available sources of finance and local preference. Ultimately, communities need to decide on the governance model that best suits their needs according to the report.
The report can be found online at http://www.policyschool.ca/publications.

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