Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Dr. Robert Young


In the debate over the governance of metropolitan areas, consolidationists favour single, area-wide, general purpose jurisdictions, while polycentrists make arguments in support of multiple, scale-specific, specialized jurisdictions. This dissertation contributes to this debate through comparisons of municipal and specialized service delivery in two Ontario cities. The cities of London and Hamilton represent positions along a continuum of fragmentation and consolidation, with London being more fragmented and Hamilton more consolidated. Comparisons are undertaken for three local government services: public health, economic development, and watershed management. In London, independent special purpose bodies deliver all three of these services, while in Hamilton the municipality is responsible for public health and economic development and controls the main conservation authority. The central objective of this dissertation is to test the competing claims of consolidationists and polycentrists by comparing the performance of these three functions in the two cities. It looks at such performance measures as efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, coordination, and responsiveness.

The results of the comparisons are mixed. On balance, the hypotheses of the consolidationists are supported more often than the hypotheses of the polycentrists, but this debate is overly simplistic. In reality, specialized governments pursue their mandate more single-mindedly than general purpose governments. The policy consequences of this characteristic are more or less pronounced depending upon how autonomous the board is. There are some positive consequences associated with specialized delivery for public health and watershed management, because the benefits of these types of services are enjoyed by most citizens, but they are not always a priority for municipal politicians. However for economic development, the policy consequences were mainly negative. This is because specialization in this functional area enhances the power of business interests. In short, much can be understood about the behaviour of special purpose bodies by how they are controlled and by what function they perform. When applied to more general debates about metropolitan governance, the findings make it clear that even relatively small differences in local government structures can have significant policy consequences.