Reforming Municipal Government: Regional Government as the Protector of Municipal Autonomy Robert Keenan

Reforming Municipal Government:
Regional Government as the
Protector of Municipal Autonomy
Robert Keenan
Community Cooperation Officer
New Name - Same Mandate
• No longer CCRC.
• Now referred to as Community
Cooperation and are a fully integrated
part of MNL
• No longer see this logo:
Why Write a Paper on Regional
• Complex Reasons:
• First, the timing for such a paper seemed right
given the cyclical nature of municipal reform.
• Second, there is significant concerns regarding
the future of municipal government in
Newfoundland and Labrador. Municipalities are a
cross-roads, and we want to present a good path
to follow.
The Genesis of the Regional
Government Paper
• No real mandate when the process started.
• Cautioned to keep it under 50 pages – ended
up being 170 pages
• Supposed to be 1 paper – ended up as 3.
• Started as a regional government paper –
ended as part of the Regional Government
What We Hope the Regional
Government Papers Will Achieve
1. We want to give you a reason to care about
Regional Government.
2. We want to educate you as to the current condition
of municipal government in Newfoundland and
3. We want to educate you on what Regional
Government is. What are the options that are
available? How will it work in the current municipal
4. We want to start a debate on the future of municipal
government and the merits of a Regional
Government system.
Lessons From Our Past
Post-Confederation Factors
• Two Pillars of Support
1.Cod Fisheries: important for settlement
2. High Provincial Transfers: supported
municipal incorporation.
Regional Institutions
• Municipally-created Regional Institutions:
MNL, Joint Councils, Regional Development
Associations (RDA).
• RDAs and Joint Council: generally weak,
poorly funded.
• Provincially-created Regional Organizations:
Regional Economic Development Boards,
Regional Service Authorities, the Rural
• Better funded. Not fully controlled by
Current Assessment of
• Not Very Positive:
Age of Key Infrastructure
Maintenance of Key Infrastructure
Other Services Beyond the capacity
of Most Towns
• Only 50% of towns have municipal plans.
Half of the plans in existence are older
than 10 years old.
• Only 14.5% of towns have economic
development plans.
Shattered Window of Municipal
Rural Secretariat
A Note of Explanation
• Problems with the current municipal
system are not the fault of the regional
• Organizations do not create
• Regional Organizations do essential
work that most municipalities would or
could not do on their own.
Who’s to Blame for the Current
State of Municipalities
• Everyone and No One.
• It is the Municipal System’s fault: created a
system that does not encourage or require
municipal collaboration.
• Municipalities are competitors, not partners.
More important to be close with the provincial
government than neighboring municipalities.
Who’s to Blame for the Current
State of Municipalities
• Everyone is to Blame:
• Municipalities are not organized to demand
• Neither municipal nor provincial leaders are
showing the political leadership needed for
municipal reform.
What About the Regional Council
Option in the Municipalities Act
• Not very good. Presents the illusion of
regional government.
• Regional Council option only create
weak regional government. That causes
more problems.
• Regional Government cannot be an
option. It has to be mandatory. Optional
regional government is weak regional
What MNL Thinks Regional
Government Should Do
• It should be a new system. A break from the old
• It should Promote and Protect the interests of
• It should alleviate some of the burdens faced by
• It should provide services municipalities currently
cannot provide.
• It should make local government stronger and
more organized.
What Will Regional
Government Look Like
• We are not prejudging what form regional
government will take.
• We present 7 different models in the paper.
• Please note: no system of regional
government from another jurisdiction can be
replicated in this province.
• Doesn’t mean that we can’t copy some things
we like.
Specific Responsibilities of a
Regional Government
• Regional government needs specific
• This will ensure that regional
government is respected and taken
• Already have the option of weak
regional government – not very
Specific Responsibilities of a Regional
• Direct Level of Local Government for Local Service Districts
and Unincorporated Areas
- Need to eliminate the governmental black holes in the system.
- Benefit municipalities by having LSD and unincorporated
areas paying their share.
- Benefit LSDs and unincorporated areas by providing better
levels of services and the opportunity to share more
- Regional government should be presented as a reasonable
option to these areas. It will provide them with a voice and
protect their interests.
Specific Responsibilities of a Regional
• Land-Use Planning and Economic
- Both of these need to be brought under
complete municipal control.
- Accountable economic development is
needed for municipal sustainability.
Specific Responsibilities of a
Regional Government
• The ability to collect a regional tax from all
residents, including those in a municipality.
- No regional government model in the paper
allows for this.
- These models are compensated, however,
1. Strict legislative rules re. payment to the
regional authority.
2. Municipalities that are good at collecting
Specific Responsibilities of a
Regional Government
Specific Responsibilities of a
Regional Government
- It is terrible to have a system where the
regional government is always fighting
to get paid from debtor municipalities.
- That system would build conflict, not
- A regional government will be better
supported and more accountable with
regional taxation. People care about
what they pay for.
Specific Responsibilities of a Regional
• Robust Dispute Resolution Mechanism:
- This is necessary for any multimunicipality organization.
- Should be legislatively created and
consistent across the province.
- Municipalities need to know that disputes
won’t keep the regional government from
functioning and advancing an agenda.
Next Steps
• Municipal Consultations (6-12 months):
- We plan to come to your community to
hear your thoughts and concerns.
- In particular, we want you to imagine
what regional government would look
like in your region.
Next Steps
• New Research Project on Municipal Revenue
- We hope to engage Wade Locke of Memorial
University to conduct an in-depth analysis of
current and potential forms of municipal
- Regional government may provide the
capacity needed for meaningful municipal
revenue reform.
Next Steps
• Reform Municipal-Provincial Relations:
- Need to establish a new framework.
- Should be based on:
1. Respect for municipal government as a level of
2. Greater provincial consultation with municipalities
on all issues that affect municipalities.
3. No off-loading of services to municipalities without
an adequate transfer of revenue.
Next Steps
• Municipal Stress Tests:
- Assessing the stress of municipalities will
assist in highlighting the need for
municipal reform.
- It will also assist in the delineation of
regional boundaries.
- 3 Parts to the stress test. I will explain two
(the third will be presented tomorrow
Part 1 of Stress Test
• Revisiting the Municipal Self-Assessment
- Self-Assessment survey did not allow for
answers to be qualified.
- We need to ask “why?” after every question
to find out how municipalities function.
- More an assessment than self-assessment.
Part 2 of Stress Test
• Municipal Benchmarks:
- Municipalities currently have no means of
measuring whether they operate effectively
and efficiently.
- As a result, it is difficult to properly plan and
- MNL plans to partner with PMA to establish a
set of municipal benchmarks.
- Process must be led by municipal leaders
and administrators.
In Closing…
• The Challenge: Municipal politicians
must have more than 4 year goals and
• Future of many municipalities is at
• Have to build a movement for change.
In Closing…
• Three Questions to Consider:
1. Do you think the current municipal system
needs to change?
2. Do you think the sustainability of your
municipality is better supported and promoted
through greater collaboration with other
3. Are you willing to participate in a substantive
discussion on regional government in
Newfoundland and Labrador?
Thank You
Robert Keenan
Community Cooperation Officer, MNL
[email protected]