The Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance’s publications comprise original research papers by faculty, graduate students, and associated researchers on specific questions related to urban policy and local governance, as well as reports on events organized by the centre..
Brittany L. Bouteiller
The Money and Local Democracy Project explores the effects of campaign finance rules on municipal election campaigns and election outcomes in Canada. Governments around the world regulate election campaign financing to ensure that elections are fair and competitive, although they do so in different ways. Funded by a Western University Undergraduate Student Research Internship (UWO) grant, research assistant Brittany Bouteiller was tasked with conducting preliminary research on 65 municipalities across Canada to determine the availability of campaign finance data from local and provincial governments and to identify clusters or trends. This research bulletin summarizes her findings.
“Growth should pay for growth.” This slogan—the common justification for development charges—is rarely challenged in municipal circles. The principle that those who cause new urban growth should pay for the infrastructure associated with it has generally been taken for granted, at least for the last few decades. Development charges evolved from post-1945 subdivision agreements and were initially accepted by most developers as a mechanism for enhancing the likelihood that current residents in a municipality would agree to new development. They now add as much as $90,000 to the cost of a new house in some parts of the Greater Toronto Area. If we are serious about attempting to lower the cost of housing in our prosperous cities, it is time to consider reverting to the past practice of having municipalities pay for the cost of new infrastructure associated with development. Such a policy—still largely in place in metropolitan Montreal—would lead to increased levels of municipal borrowing and modest increases in property taxes in some places. This report explores the origins of development charges in the United States and Canada, examines how they have been assessed in the academic literature, and looks at some of the alternatives as experienced in other countries. Prescriptions for future policy are cautious because other countries seem to be increasingly adopting similar charges and reducing them where they exist in Canada could lead to injustice for recent home buyers and other possible unintended consequences.
Régionalisation représentative : Vers un gouvernement local plus équitable, démocratique, réactif et efficace au Nouveau-Brunswick
Zack Taylor and Jon Taylor
En réponse au Livre vert sur la réforme de la gouvernance locale du gouvernement du Nouveau- Brunswick publié en avril 2021, le présent rapport fait le diagnostic des problèmes du système de gouvernance locale existant de la province et propose une solution qui tire parti des actifs existants pour créer un système de gouvernance locale plus équitable, démocratique, réactif et efficace. Un système de gouvernance locale remanié aidera les Néo-Brunswickois à faire face aux difficiles défis économiques et démographiques actuels et futurs.
Le présent rapport recommande de renforcer les commissions de services régionaux en s’inspirant des districts régionaux de la Colombie-Britannique, des organismes polyvalents qui coordonnent la prestation de services et l’aménagement du territoire dans cette province depuis les années 1960. Le rapport présente l’historique des districts régionaux, décrit leurs principales caractéristiques et montre comment ils pourraient être mis en oeuvre au Nouveau-Brunswick en soumettant les commissions de services régionaux existantes à de modestes réformes. Nous appelons cette approche régionalisation représentative, parce qu’elle renforcerait le gouvernement local, donnerait une voix démocratique aux 30 % de Néo-Brunswickois qui vivent à l’extérieur des municipalités constituées et répartirait plus équitablement les coûts et les avantages dans les marchés régionaux du logement et du travail. Il est important de noter que la régionalisation représentative ne perturberait que très peu les institutions existantes et les pratiques de longue date; en fait, beaucoup moins que d’autres solutions potentielles telles que la constitution en municipalité et la fusion forcées. La régionalisation représentative n’est pas une démarche centralisatrice. Au contraire, elle renforcerait l’autonomie locale en donnant aux institutions démocratiques locales les moyens de prendre des décisions dans l’intérêt de leurs communautés.
Representative Regionalization: Toward More Equitable, Democratic, Responsive, and Efficient Local Government in New Brunswick
Zack Taylor and Jon Taylor
Responding to the Government of New Brunswick’s Green Paper on Local Governance Reform released in April 2021, this report diagnoses the problems of the province’s existing system of local governance and proposes a solution that leverages existing assets to create a more equitable, democratic, responsive, and efficient local governance system. A reformed local governance system will help New Brunswickers confront difficult present and future economic and demographic challenges.
This report recommends strengthening New Brunswick’s 12 Regional Service Commissions along the lines of British Columbia’s regional districts—multi-purpose bodies that have coordinated service delivery and land-use planning in that province since the 1960s. The report outlines the history of regional districts, describes their key features, and shows how they could be implemented in New Brunswick through modest reforms to the existing Regional Service Commissions. We call this approach representative regionalization because it would strengthen local government, give a democratic voice to the 30% of New Brunswickers who live outside of incorporated municipalities, and distribute costs and benefits more equitably within regional housing and labour markets. Importantly, representative regionalization would be minimally disruptive to existing institutions and longstanding practices—indeed, much less disruptive than other potential options such as forced municipal incorporation and amalgamation. Representative regionalization is not a centralizing move. Rather, it would enhance local autonomy by empowering local democratic institutions to make decisions in the interest of their communities.
To elect its mayor and council in October of 2018, the City of London, Ontario used ranked-choice voting instead of the traditional first-past-the-post system; the first Canadian city in decades to use an alternative electoral system. London’s experience as the first Ontario municipality to implement ranked-choice voting allows it to offer its experience as a lesson to other municipalities that may be considering making changes to their voting systems.
From the Ontario government’s review of the Municipal Elections Act in 2016 through to the implementation of a ranked-ballot election in 2018, this report details the experience of City of London staff and consultants. Preparations for the election included procuring and testing equipment, hiring and training staff, and educating the public about the ranked-ballot system. A description of voting day procedures focuses on issues specific to ranked-choice voting at the polling stations and tabulation centre. The process of determining the election results is described, including the post-election audit of procedures, and the final costs of the election.
The report concludes with a discussion of lessons other municipalities can take from London’s experience: first, that administering a ranked-choice election is more expensive than a first-past-the-post election, at least the first time. Second, that preparing for and running the election requires organizational changes and additional human resources. Third, that the procurement and testing of equipment and software is a significant endeavour, and finally, that an associated awareness-raising and outreach strategy is essential for informing voters and managing public expectations.
Summary of remarks made at a public roundtable celebrating the launch of the Centre of Urban Policy and Local Governance held at Western University on November 23, 2018. Participants included Pierre Filion, Professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo and an expert in mid-sized cities; Arielle Kayabaga, Councillor-Elect for City of London’s downtown Ward 13; Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director of London’s Pillar Nonprofit Network and Co-Founder of Innovation Works; John Fleming, Managing Director of Planning and City Planner for the City of London; and Neil Bradford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Huron University College.
Edited transcript of remarks made at a public roundtable celebrating the launch of the Centre of Urban Policy and Local Governance held at Western University on November 23, 2018. Participants included Pierre Filion, Professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo and an expert in mid-sized cities; Arielle Kayabaga, Councillor-Elect for City of London’s downtown Ward 13; Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director of London’s Pillar Nonprofit Network and Co-Founder of Innovation Works; John Fleming, Managing Director of Planning and City Planner for the City of London; and Neil Bradford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Huron University College.
Martin Horak, Andrew Sancton, Rachna Goswami, and Umera Ali
Ontario municipalities of all sizes face pressure to “do more with less.” Commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs, this Resource Guide provides municipal officials with single-source information about a range of current leading practices in cost savings in small and mid-sized Ontario municipalities. Municipalities across the province are continually developing innovative practices that save costs without incurring service level reductions. Most of these practices involve small-scale initiatives that result in modest savings. Yet even modest savings add up over time, and multiple small initiatives in a single municipality can make a big difference. In addition, by providing an opportunity to re-think established service provision practices, these initiatives often have significant non-monetary benefits as well.
This Guide, based on a year of research by a team at Western University, presents detailed profiles of 14 selected cases of leading practices in cost savings. The case studies come from municipalities of varying sizes in all regions of the province, and profile leading practices in a wide variety of service fields. In addition to these cases, the Guide presents a reference compendium of 159 cost-savings recommendations from recent Municipal Service Delivery Reviews. The Guide is intended to serve as a source of ideas and inspiration for Ontario’s local officials as they seek to provide the best possible services to their residents in challenging fiscal times.
Zack Taylor and Leah Birnbaum
Greater Toronto is recognized as a high-performing urban region. Over the past decade, however, negative social, economic, and environmental trends have emerged that threaten the region’s future. On the basis of documentary research and four focus group workshops with a diverse array of professional practitioners, this paper assesses the Toronto region’s current assets and vulnerabilities in relation to future risks.The discussion is framed by the concept of resilience—an increasingly popular, yet abstract, concept in urban planning and public administration. This paper proposes, first, that planning and policymaking be directed toward increasing the region’s resilience, understood as the diversity and redundancy of social, economic, environmental, and fiscal-governmental systems. Second, it suggests that public resource allocation be guided by what some have called anticipatory governance—the proactive use of scenarios to discover where multiple risks and vulnerabilities intersect, and therefore where returns may be greatest. Finally, the paper suggests that an appeal to improving quality of life rather than to crisis or individual self- interest may be the most effective way to build broad support for long-term investments in resilience-enhancing infrastructure and services.