Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Dr. Robert A. Young


Municipal associations carry out two core functions – advocacy and providing member services. How associations prioritize and perform these functions is largely unclear. This dissertation explores how membership composition affects their activities. Canada’s 18 provincial level municipal associations all provide advocacy and services for their members, but there are considerable differences within their memberships. Some associations represent all municipalities within a province while others are divided along linguistic, regional, or rural/urban lines. In addition, the municipalities they represent can vary by size, legal type, region, ethnicity/language, and rural/urban character. Two measures of membership composition are employed: rural/urban dominance and population size. They are used to examine three areas of associations’ activities: issues pursued in intergovernmental lobbying, the jurisdictional aspect of policy requests, and the allocation of collective resources.

The three research questions employed in this dissertation share the approach of measuring the input of membership composition and correlating it with the outputs of organizational behaviour and policy requests. In total, seven hypotheses are tested. 1: Unified associations pursue functional, municipal issues. 2: Rural associations pursue socio-economic issues. 3: Urban associations pursue stronger municipal regulatory control. 4: Associations with homogeneous member populations lobby for provincial programs to meet their requests. 5: Associations with heterogeneous member populations request the resources to institute municipal programs. 6: Small municipalities positively affect an association’s level of service delivery. 7: Large municipalities negatively affect an association’s level of service delivery. The results of analysis provide strong evidence that associational behaviour is not determined by the external environment alone, but also by internal composition of membership. Associations use organizational structures – boards of directors, caucuses, sub-associations, and district meetings – to represent the cleavages in their membership, but the extent of these cleavages impacts the mix and content of the associations’ activities. Rural/urban dominance influences the type of issues associations pursue in intergovernmental lobbying. The dispersion of member populations affects both the jurisdictional aspect of policy requests and the allocation of collective resources between services and advocacy. These findings provide exploratory, empirical evidence that membership composition influences associational behaviour. They advance our understandings of municipal associations and of collective action.