Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Emancipation of Local Government in BC

Why should we not make local government in BC a third order of recognized government?

At the moment all local governments in BC are answerable to the province and have to operate under set of rules that are one size fits all.    Local governments have professional staff, decent people elect to govern, and can make decisions that have multi billion dollar implications.  Why could they not be self governing?

I know Vancouver operates under a different set of rules so my comments may not fit in all cases with their situation.

At the moment the size of a council has to four, six or eight members and a mayor.   No matter how large the population, the council can not be larger to better represent the people.

Councils are all elected using the worst electoral system possible, plurality at large.   This voting system rewards well known names or slates, it can often lead to results that are not a reflection of the public will at all.   Why not let local governments choose their electoral system?

Councils currently are all elected on the same day for the same term.   Since it has little or no bearing on the province when the local elections are, why not let local governments choose the election day and choose their length of term?

Councils can pass by-laws but they are not in effect until the minister signs off on them.  Why not let them pass their own laws?    The Nisga'a have been doing this for a decade now and seem to be doing quite fine with respect to the process.

How would we go about this?
I suggest that the BC Constitution Act be amended to add a section that grants to local governments the powers to govern themselves though done within the framework of the Canadian constitution.   I would set out in there the areas of jurisdiction of local government and the process that would followed for passing a local law.   I would also add in something about the broad terms of the system by which councils would be elected.     In general, give local government enough authority to do what they need to do but given them real self government powers and clear areas of authority.

I would not include regional districts in this, they should be creatures of local governments and answer to them for funding, by-law approvals, etc......

I would want to also see a firm set of rules for transfer of financial resources from the provincial government to the local government - no more applying for grants for specific projects all the time.

I am a firm believer in the concept of subsidiarity and see this as an important way we could move forward with this in BC.  Giving local government real powers will lead to some disasters, but in most cases will lead to better governance.  
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