The administration is handled by the municipal PUBLIC SERVICE, made up of officials and employees appointed by the council and organized into departments.
The necessary link between policy making and administration is supplied in most municipal governments by a council or committee system, in which a municipal council establishes a series of committees to direct and control the municipal public service. The number of committees created by municipal governments depends on local circumstances and priorities. Each committee, made up of a specified number of council members, reviews the activities of the departments related to it and makes recommendations to the municipal council. The head of each municipal department is usually accountable to one committee and perhaps several, depending upon departmental responsibilities. Committees can sometimes recommend actions in one area that might conflict with another area of municipal responsibility; they also tend to fragment municipal decision making and administration.
Many municipal governments, particularly in the larger cities, have either abandoned or modified this system. At least 3 other structures have evolved: the council-board of control and the council-executive committee co-ordinate activities at the political level, ie, the municipal council, while the council-chief administrative officer and the council-board of commissioners are responsible for similar arrangements at the administrative level.
Board of Control
The board of control has a long history going back to the 1890s when it was first established in Toronto. It was made mandatory under the Municipal Act of Ontario for all cities in that province over 100 000 in population. When that legislation was amended to permit municipal councils to abandon it, most did so. Surprisingly, however, legislation governing the recent 1998 amalgamation of Kingston provided for a board of control.
The board of control comprises the mayor as chairman and a number of controllers (usually 4), elected city-wide, who are also full members of the municipal council. Others are councillors or aldermen usually elected to represent wards or districts. Under the Municipal Act, a board of control is assigned executive powers, including preparation of the annual estimates, nomination and suspension of officials and employees, and the awarding of contracts. Boards of control have been criticized for their tendency to create 2 categories of council member: controllers elected at large and councillors elected on a district or ward basis. Moreover, it has been difficult for council to overturn a financial recommendation of the board of control because of the requirement for a two-thirds majority vote of council to do so. Boards of control, while common in Ontario, have not been adopted by cities elsewhere in Canada.
These committees have long existed in Montréal and Québec City. In 1972 one was established in the amalgamated city of Winnipeg and, in 1998, in the newly amalgamated city of Toronto.
Council-chief Administrative Officer (CAO)
The CAO may be known as the city administrator, municipal manager or city commissioner and is largely a modified version of the council-manager system popular in the US. The position is an attempt to formally separate the functions of policy making and administration by assigning the former to the municipal council and the latter to the municipal manager. Few Canadian cities have attempted the rigid, formal division inherent in the council-manager plan. The CAO, appointed by the council, has responsibility for administration and is accountable to the council. However, he or she can make recommendations to council with respect to policy. In the same way, municipal councils often make suggestions with respect to administration. A clearcut distinction between the 2 functions - policy and administration - is not always easy to maintain. In practice there is some crossover in the respective activities of council and CAO. The establishment of the position of CAO has enabled some councils to abolish committees. When this occurs the municipal council usually acts as a committee of the whole to receive reports from the CAO and other officials. Alternatively, other councils have consolidated and reduced the number of committees to which the CAO must report.
Board of Commissioners
The council-board of commissioners arrangement evolved in western Canada, particularly in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and, for a period, in Vancouver. It was recently abandoned by Edmonton and Winnipeg and a city manager appointed instead. Under a board of commissioners system a management group of 3 or 4 commissioners is appointed, one of whom becomes the chief commissioner. Each commissioner is responsible for a broad range of interrelated responsibilities including a group of departments. The board is collectively responsible to the council for the entire administration. Variants of these structures and combinations of them also exist. Québec City has an executive committee with a city manager accountable to it and London employs a board of control with a CAO responsible to it.
Municipal structures also include a number of special-purpose bodies usually established as local boards or commissions by provincial governments, although the extent of their use varies considerably, including, among others, library boards, utility commissions, transit authorities, police commissions, parks boards and conservation authorities. Provincial statutes outline the procedures for the appointment of members. Most of these groups enjoy varying degrees of independence from municipal jurisdiction, although municipalities must provide a considerable proportion of their funds. Because these bodies fall under the control of both the provincial and municipal governments, it is difficult for the public to know just who is responsible and for what.
In contrast to the practice in some US cities in which duties such as budget formation and appointment of certain administration officers are the responsibility of the mayor, the significance of this office in Canada does not stem from the assignment of such powers but rather from its high profile, although a mayor with a forceful personality may also be a strong leader. Variously described as "the chief officer," "the chief executive officer" or "the head of council" in provincial statutes, the mayor has little power independent of the municipal council. All provinces provide that the mayor shall be elected at large, and Canadian mayors generally preside at all council meetings, are ex officio members of all committees and can make recommendations to the municipal council.
The relationship between a province and its municipalities is one of superior and subordinates and not of equals. This emphasizes the fact that municipal governments have no constitutionally recognized existence but are creations of provincial legislation, which assigns to them certain duties and responsibilities. Certain areas, such as those involving MUNICIPAL FINANCE and land-use planning powers, are regulated by the provinces. The relationship between municipalities and the federal government is relatively unimportant. Federal programs that affect municipal government are generally handled through federal-provincial agreements.
Annexation and Amalgamation
The extension of municipal boundaries by the annexation of peripheral rural areas is usually justified on the grounds that urban physical services such as water, sewerage facilities and roads can be provided more readily by the urban municipality than the rural area. When a major city is encircled by several smaller municipalities, or when 2 municipalities have developed side by side and share a common boundary, separate municipal jurisdictions complicate the provision of necessary services over the entire area and the need to secure orderly and planned development. This problem is sometimes solved by amalgamation, the consolidation of municipalities into a single municipal entity.
Decisions about annexation or amalgamation can only be made by the provincial government. Because both usually provoke controversy, most provinces have established procedures involving hearings held by ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS such as the Ontario Municipal Board and the Local Authorities Board in Alberta. In some circumstances a province may establish a special investigating commission to study the matter and make a recommendation. In large metropolitan areas where several municipal governments operate, amalgamation has been considered difficult if not impossible. Some provinces have established METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENTS or REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS or special districts.
In recent years, however, some provinces have made significant amalgamation decisions. Manitoba consolidated the city of Winnipeg, a metropolitan corporation and some 9 other municipal governments into the single city of Winnipeg with a population of approximately 700 000. Nova Scotia amalgamated the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, the town of Bedford and part of the county of Halifax. The largest and most recent amalgamation took place in 1998 when Ontario consolidated the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, the city of Toronto, the 4 cities of Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York, and York, and the borough of East York into the single city of Toronto with a population of about 2.3 million. The decision for amalgamation sparked heated debate. The city council of this new city of Toronto has 57 councillors with 2 elected from each of the city's 28 wards and a third councillor from the former East York.
In the same year Ontario adopted legislation that drastically altered the governance and financing of public education by reducing the number of school boards and altering the method of their financing. At the same time, the province introduced a form of market value assessment with which municipal governments would levy the tax on real property. Responsibility for certain social services and public health programs formerly undertaken by the province were assigned or "downloaded" to municipal governments.
Author T.J. PLUNKETT
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With One Voice: A History of Municipal Governance in Manitoba
A synopsis of a book that covers topics such as daylight saving time, taxes, rural electrification, the impact of gophers and other farm pests, lottery terminals, and more. From the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...