Information Report (SMT 19-01) Wednesday May 17, 2019
The senior management team (SMT) has prepared this position paper on the Province of Ontario Governance Review as a starting point for Council that by their resolution can be submitted to the Province for consideration. SMT advises Town Council to consider additional feedback mechanisms and community consultations in forming its position on the review.
This position paper has been prepared by SMT in response to the questions related to municipal service delivery in order to achieve the Province’s mandate to the special advisors. SMT has not provided a position related to the questions regarding municipal governance and decision-making.
In January 2019, the Province of Ontario announced a review of regional government in selected municipalities within the Province including the Region of Niagara and the Town of Grimsby. Since then the Province has received feedback on the review from their website survey and community consultations. The Corporation of the Town of Grimsby would like to lend its voice to the discussion.
On March 15, 2019, Grimsby Town Council resolved to endorse the request from Niagara Region “…facilitation for finances to hire a Government Relations/Communications firm to advise the 13 local area municipalities on government relations, public polling and communications in regard to the Provincial Government Review of Regional Government”. This position paper is prepared for information to Council.
Municipal Service Delivery
The current service delivery model provides many benefits to Grimsby residents, rate payers, businesses and visitors. SMT recognizes there are opportunities for service delivery efficiencies in some areas. The Town of Grimsby, along with its peer municipalities and the Niagara Region have been working together over the past number of decades to establish efficient service delivery and welcome the opportunity to review and implement any further efficiencies in providing the best possible services to our community.
It is important to note the shared municipal service areas are currently governed by service agreements or memorandums of understanding. In addition to shared services agreements the municipalities of Niagara have entered into, a number of collective procurements for services and commodities using different mechanisms such as the Niagara Public Purchasing Committee, the Province’s Vendors of Records through the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and others, which help maximize our purchasing power. These approaches address and streamlined effort and provide cost efficiency.
To maintain and enhance current municipal service levels a localized approach to delivery is necessary. Localized efforts ensure community capacity building supporting community vitality pillars such as neighbourhood liveability, volunteerism, partnerships, and service innovation. The community that one identifies with is extremely important to citizens, and should be protected. At the same time there are services that are simply much more efficient when operated on a greater scale. To these points, the two-tiered structure offers the highest degree of efficiency and potential.
In our ever-changing times, we also recognize agility, flexibility and creativity are important to ensure municipalities can continue to meet evolving needs. We believe that a two-tier structure creates an environment to capture local potential and connectivity, and maximize shared economies of scale. These objectives are best achieved by maintaining nimble and forward thinking municipalities that remain connected to citizen’s values and concerns.
Boundaries of municipalities should not necessarily define service, even with potential governance changes. Neighbouring municipalities, not-for-profit organizations and private sector businesses can all be potential service delivery partners that local municipalities can continue to collaborate with.
As the scope of the governance review is quite large, Grimsby SMT suggests the province focus on wins in the areas of municipal service delivery that can best result in efficiencies for the taxpayers of Grimsby and within the broader Region. These quick wins would be within areas of current overlap in service delivery. Having experts in these municipal services delve deep into overlapping service delivery areas would provide a solid foundation for service delivery re-alignment, buy-in and setup any changes with a careful, knowledgeable approach.
The challenges of duplication and maximizing efficiencies are and will remain an ongoing issue. The best solution to manage these challenges is to create an environment that is adaptable, accountable and connected. This can be best achieved by supporting the current government structure and developing an independent task force that specifically examines where further efficiencies can be captured in shared service areas.
We believe that the best outcome of this governance review is to recognize the fullest potential of the current structure, and invest resources into further examination of where lines of accountability should exist. This more detailed accountability review should occur in the short term, but also be viewed as an ongoing process where we collectively and continuously assess how we can best deliver services. As new priorities and government challenges arise we can best tackle these matters through collaboration and careful consideration of which arm of municipal government is best able to address the tasks.
Agenda item a)
The challenge with the existing two tiered municipal service model is that there are some areas of perceived or actual overlap that blur accountability and perhaps may present competing interests. The shared service areas identified in the table below by the Brock University policy brief present the greatest opportunities for service efficiencies. These areas should be reviewed with the goal of establishing clear accountabilities.
Brock University Policy brief (no.38)
Should the Province of Ontario decide to implement any governance changes in Grimsby or Niagara affecting the local community, SMT suggests a phased approach in collaboration with local officials which takes local conditions into consideration.
A transition to any new governance structure must be planned to ensure no disruption to the important services our residents, visitors and businesses depend on each and every day. The transition to any new governance model should include the allocation of the necessary one-time staff and financial resources to implement the model.
The Town of Grimsby would welcome the opportunity to comment and participate on any transition team or committee to any new governance approach.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment and input. Should you need any further information please feel free to contact the Town of Grimsby.
-Grimsby Senior Management Team
Agenda item a)