Jump to content
Political Discussion Forums
Sign in to follow this  
Argus

Are there any capable muncipal governments?

Recommended Posts

It just seems to me that every time I read about municipal government it's another example of how incredibly poor fiscal managers the municipalities are, how guided by narrow interests they are, and how incompetent at managing almost everything about their city these councils are.

I know that Toronto's city council is almost completely incompetent but they're genius compared to the council in Ottawa. And I've heard some strange things about Vancouver's municipal government. Montreal's is even worse. Though they're still better than Ottawa's.

Is it something about the kind of person who gets involved in municipal government? I read once that the NDP are far more heavily represented at the municipal level because they're the only party that actively helps candidates with money and organization. That may be true. Most of the hair-brained idiocy I read and see from municipal government comes from the wacky left of the political spectrum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It just seems to me that every time I read about municipal government it's another example of how incredibly poor fiscal managers the municipalities are, how guided by narrow interests they are, and how incompetent at managing almost everything about their city these councils are.

I read once that the NDP are far more heavily represented at the municipal level because they're the only party that actively helps candidates with money and organization. That may be true.

No there arent , at least that I am aware of.

Why? who knows, but they seem to run under the radar of most people.

TO council is all NDP or sympathiser to that cause.

The town of Huntsville has stated recently that a huge increase in taxes is needed. The next week they voted themselves a huge pay raise. The following week they asked to tax rural residents a surcharge to put in new water pipes in town. Most said sure....as soon as the towns cheque clears for helping out on the costs of septic installation. Idiots all. Whats even worse is the towns finance chair is a guy I grew up with. Guess he will hear from me soon.

The municipalities are all good at one thing. And that is paying themselves. Look at what the Finance heads get, the City Managers get , all unelected people who hold the real power.

And to add to this, look at School Boards, they are almost all NDP in this city.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good thread topic.

I know that Toronto's city council is almost completely incompetent but they're genius compared to the council in Ottawa. And I've heard some strange things about Vancouver's municipal government. Montreal's is even worse. Though they're still better than Ottawa's.
Argus, you name four cities, all reasonably large.

If Pierre Bourque is to be believed, Ottawa has a nutjob for mayor. (I don't follow Ottawa municipal politics - That would be one of my definitions of Hell - so I can't verify Bourque's opinion. I guess nutjob politicians happen. I wouldn't draw a conclusion.)

What of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal? They are Canada's biggest cities. In the case of Montreal, Tremblay is anyone to everyone. The problem in Montreal is les cols bleus. The city must negotiate with strong and violent unionized workers. (The guys who collect tickets in the metro earn more than a high school teacher with 25 years experience.) I figure that at some point, when property taxes get out of control, Montreal will elect a Proposition 13 Margaret Thatcher for mayor. Dunno.

I can't speak intelligently of Toronto or Vancouver. Given their federal voting record, limousine-liberal and tax-and-spend seem popular.

----

In fact though, as governments and government bureaucracies go, the smaller the better. The further politicians are away from their voters and taxpayers, the easier it is for them.

Most Canadians would not notice if a penny fell from their pocket. For Stephen Harper, that penny would amount to $300,000. Stephen Harper has the power to make one person very rich ($300,000 per year) and no one else will notice (each Canadian loses one cent each year.) That is the nature of government and it explains in part why a "smart" politician prefers a government with authority over more people. The fundamental problem of government is that the money coming in is not connected to the money going out.

The UN is ineffective and profligate, the EU also. Same for most international organizations - OECD, IMF, World Bank, other UN organizations. The US federal government builds billion dollar bridges between tiny Alaskan islands, and buys billion dollar military bombers that crash. If the US (the country) is an economic success, it is not because of Washington. It is because the US is a federal system with 50 states and a central government restricted by gridlock.

Big governments waste; small governments sometimes don't.

Guyser notes Huntsville in Ontario above. I don't know these politics. IME, people in small towns watch everything like hawks. Guyser's description of the differences in property taxes shows me that many people are aware of what's going on in Huntsville. Would this even be noticed in places like Toronto, or London England or Paris France?

Several years ago, the magazine L'Actualité published a list comparing the efficiency of different municipalities in Quebec. (The criteria was property tax and other revenue against services provided to the population.) If memory serves, the winners were a small town in the Lanaudière and an anglophone enclave in the West Island. Both had populations around 50,000.

I happen to think that the movement to amalgamate urban municipal councils was a bad (horrendous) idea. In Quebec, the PQ did this for political reasons. I don't know why this was done in the US or elsewhere in Canada. Local governments respond to local needs. Local politicians cannot tax-and-spend.

The Canadian State is federal for a political reason. (Canada has two languages and a diverse Christian population.) Yet, Canada's federa state also has an economic reason. Local (provincial) governments spend taxpayer's money more carefully.

I favour Quebec independence for several reasons, yet this economic reason always sits in the back of my mind. An independent Quebec State would have a more effective government. In an independent Quebec, we would pay smaller taxes to achieve the same services from our government(s). In this sense, Canada is costly to Quebec - and to English Canadians.

Edited by August1991

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If Pierre Bourque is to be believed, Ottawa has a nutjob for mayor. (I don't follow Ottawa municipal politics - That would be one of my definitions of Hell - so I can't verify Bourque's opinion. I guess nutjob politicians happen. I wouldn't draw a conclusion.)

The mayor of Ottawa has been charged with bribing a fellow candidate. He's reneged on just about every campaign promise he made and we might end up with the biggest tax increase in the city's history after O'Brien campaigned on a platform of "zero means zero."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Edmonton had some pretty sound fiscal management for a while, mainly due to a mayor called Lawrence Decore from the 1980s. In tough fiscal times, he introduced a bylaw that restricted civic borrowing to a fixed percentage of operating costs, debt repayment costs could not exceed that amount. That meant- imagine this if you can- that the cty could not borrow money unless it could repay it!

This bylaw restricted future councils from some of the pork barrelling and fantasy projects, and kept the debt load (and taxes) manageable.

It worked quite well until the late 90s, when boom times make it an albatross, rapid expansion needs money and that means capital spending.

It has since been rescinded, allowing councillors to get back to the time honoured pastimes of raising property taxes and pissing away money in large chunks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Halifax Regional Municipality is a definte vote for the 'incapable' municiple governments.

A small group of councillors led by David Hendsbee have hijacked the council this past year. They accomplished nothing significant towards poverty, transportation, education, business and the environment. Halifax's greatest accomplishments the last year where making the national news for barbaric violent crimes and anti-cat by-law debates.

They spent more time debating an expensive anti pet by-law and debating whether to make a name change for the city than any other issue considered important by the public. The anti pet by-law is still going on as David Hendsbee's supporters, councillors Linda Mosher, Bill Karsten, Krista Snow and Mary Wile continue to push forth the unpopular legislation in light of enormous opposition in council and from the public outcry that they should be dealing with more important issues.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd say they probably all suck due to the fact they are 'licenced' by senior governments who retain the real power they wield.

Most local municipal and regional district representatives I know who get elected seem like different people once they come back from the 4 days or so of seminars on governance that the provincial government holds after municipal elections.

I think they must all be infected with Goa'ulds or get absorbed into some Borg-like collective. Its sad to watch a pumped-up firebrand turn into a docile sheep before your very eyes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose it all depends on where yer from, but my guess is that a lot of them suck because they get so much of their budget from the feds and the provos....

My favourite muni politico has to be whatever incarnation of Richard Daly was running Chicago when a lot of bulldozers showed up in the middle of the night and plowed to fertilizer an airport runway some guy was trying to install on waterffront land. That's what I call balls...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If Pierre Bourque is to be believed, Ottawa has a nutjob for mayor. (I don't follow Ottawa municipal politics - That would be one of my definitions of Hell - so I can't verify Bourque's opinion. I guess nutjob politicians happen. I wouldn't draw a conclusion.)

Actually, he's not bad, but he's an amateur politician. The problem is that the electorate, in their collective wisdom, elected a guy for mayor who was anti-taxes, while re-electing every single city councilor from last time around - in other words, a bunch of free-spending idiots. How bad is Ottawa's city council? They spent years trying to push through a proposal for light rail transit which was going in the wrong direction, north south, when we really need help east west. According to their own proposal the billion dollar rail system (they stopped calling it rapid transit when it emerged the train would, because of track conditions, take longer to get downtown than buses) would, they hoped, entice up to 1100 new riders to use public transit! That's all, for a billion dollars.

On the plus side, the train would take people down south to where nobody lives - but uh, coincidentally, a lot of big developers who contribute to municipal election campaigns have invested a lot of money in farmland anticipation of a rapid flip and heavy profits. The city had been holding onto a long strip of land running north and south to one day put in a new high speed road to serve the south. In order to justify the need for the train they rented out a big chunk of land right in the middle of that right of way to a hospital on a ninety nine year lease. Presto! There's no longer anyplace to put a road! Thus we need this expensive train!

Well, the voters threw the idiot mayor who pushed the train, and threw out the train with him. But the entire council of idiots who backed it are back, and that train program is back too. It's the plan that will not die - not that any of our municipal politicians are in the pockets of developers of course.

In fact though, as governments and government bureaucracies go, the smaller the better. The further politicians are away from their voters and taxpayers, the easier it is for them.

You would think so, but the sheer incompetence of municipal government in Canada seems to argue otherwise. The feds and provinces are invariably better managers than school boards and municipalities.

I favour Quebec independence for several reasons, yet this economic reason always sits in the back of my mind. An independent Quebec State would have a more effective government. In an independent Quebec, we would pay smaller taxes to achieve the same services from our government(s). In this sense, Canada is costly to Quebec - and to English Canadians.

Yes, I've seen this strange delusion before. Somehow, your incompetent provincial government would be able to operate with much greater efficiency if it only got complete control of your taxes instead of having to share it with the feds. No doubt you figure health care would improve dramatically too. Sorry, don't buy it. I also don't buy your odd belief that Quebec would be economically better off without the billions of dollars shipped to you by Ontario. I don't mind your fantasies, though. By all means, I'm more than willing to wave goodbye to Quebec.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our Calgary municipal governmnet has a decent record. With a few exceptions, aldermen and the mayor are re-elected with large levels of confidence.

City governments are in an awkward position. They are closest to the people and thus subject to 'in your face' issues yet at the same time have no authority not granted by the province. They don't have guaranteed sources of income yet have a long list of tasks to accomplish. In a way municipalities are a provincial management level on day to day issues. Decisions on health, education, roads etc, are ultimately under the whim of the province and not the city government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Our Calgary municipal governmnet has a decent record. With a few exceptions, aldermen and the mayor are re-elected with large levels of confidence.

City governments are in an awkward position. They are closest to the people and thus subject to 'in your face' issues yet at the same time have no authority not granted by the province. They don't have guaranteed sources of income yet have a long list of tasks to accomplish. In a way municipalities are a provincial management level on day to day issues. Decisions on health, education, roads etc, are ultimately under the whim of the province and not the city government.

They don't need to make decisions about such things. They need to take care of garbage collection, the police, fire department, municipal road work, snow removal, water provision, etc. Yet they do a lousy job at most if not all of those. At least Ottawa does. As an example, Ottawa wants to charge a special surcharge this year to pay for the increased costs of snow removal. But wait, didn't we have much lower than normal snow removal in previous years? Yes, but they went and spent that money instead. They also spent the money that was supposed to be in their reserve fund - which is designed for such unexpected costs, but they kept raiding it in earlier years in order to artificially suppress tax increases (not eliminate them of course, just reduce them). The city is already facing the largest tax increase in its history, and has consistently raised taxes well above the rate of inflation for the last ten straight years. There is no project they won't support, however trivial, and no savings they can find in any ongoing program.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It just seems to me that every time I read about municipal government it's another example of how incredibly poor fiscal managers the municipalities are, how guided by narrow interests they are, and how incompetent at managing almost everything about their city these councils are.

How's this for stupidity:

Several rectangular signs have been posted around city hall -- blue background with a large white dot.

Just what is their purpose?

Few seem to know.

"I've got no idea, but I have wondered," admitted Cumberland Coun. Rob Jellett. "I've asked several people and no one else knows either.

The answer was much the same from other city councillors polled by the Sun.

"When I first saw them I wondered if they were art, community art," joked Innes Coun. Rainer Bloess.

(Think that was a joke!)

"I don't know, what is it?" asked Kanata Coun. Marianne Wilkinson.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Georges Bedard, Rideau Coun. Glenn Brooks and Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Steve Desroches also came up blank. "

http://www.ottawasun.com/News/OttawaAndReg...092321-sun.html

This Ottawa City Council is a doozie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is it something about the kind of person who gets involved in municipal government? I read once that the NDP are far more heavily represented at the municipal level because they're the only party that actively helps candidates with money and organization. That may be true. Most of the hair-brained idiocy I read and see from municipal government comes from the wacky left of the political spectrum.

Are you unaware that City of Ottawa councillors are all socialist.

That is why mayor O'Brien doesn't fit in and is why the whole lot of them should be fired.

Regardless I find O'Brien, at the other end of the spectrum, being to pro-buisness like.

It does seem hard to get competent municiple politicians in Ottawa.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes

Many smaller communities are running a balanced budget. My property taxes went down last year - and I do not expect a significant increase for several years.

Our 150 acre home place includes a large barn - 100 x 120, a brick house - 1400 sq ft, a 40 x 80 shop and a 40 x 24 shop. Several large out buildings with no power are interspersed through out the place.

Great services to the home place.

Total taxes last year are less than 1400 dollars.

Larger communities are usually very left leaning and do theri best to continue with social re-engineerin - which is costly.

Borg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Borg care to tell us what province and county this taxation Shangri-la you live in is ? I have .9 of an acre on Lake Simcoe with a slightly larger home and my taxes are almost 4 times of yours .

Are you located north of the tree line ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is the time of year when the Sunshine Club announces who make over $100,000 within the muncipality. What do you think of the wages of these people? Should these people make this kind of money if the jobs in the area has dropped and thing are getting tough for the people living there? What about a basic pay and then commission on the total assets the municipal can bring in for jobs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What about a basic pay and then commission on the total assets the municipal can bring in for jobs.

Performance bonuses are a good idea but I don't think they're permitted for elected officials.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Our Calgary municipal governmnet has a decent record. With a few exceptions, aldermen and the mayor are re-elected with large levels of confidence.

City governments are in an awkward position. They are closest to the people and thus subject to 'in your face' issues yet at the same time have no authority not granted by the province. They don't have guaranteed sources of income yet have a long list of tasks to accomplish. In a way municipalities are a provincial management level on day to day issues. Decisions on health, education, roads etc, are ultimately under the whim of the province and not the city government.

I would say that Calgary's city council has "large levels of confidence" is really stretching it, considering the abysmal voter turnout. Sure, almost 2 of 3 votes cast were for Bronconnier, but what does it say when only 1 of 5 people even bother to vote? Is it really a vote of confidence when you take 15 eligible voters, and only TWO actually went out and officially declared support for the winner? Don't assume that if the 80 percent of non-voters were to cast ballots that they'd vote with the other 20. Trust me, Bronco's REAL approval rating is very likely UNDER 50 percent factoring in everyone. There are two reasons he is still mayor: He isn't so completely inept that people are motivated to go out and vote him out of office, and the competing candidates are unknown, nutjobs or both.

And when it comes to aldermen, there weren't "few" exceptions, there were a sizeable number of exceptions and a couple of close races. For example, Helene Laroque was such an incompetent alderman that even with the backing of socialist and union groups (and the largest campaign budget) she came out in last place, and with some incumbents not running again there was some competition. It's clear to me that there isn't widespread consensus and approval in Calgary when it comes to municipal politics that you suggest there is.

Bronconnier has been good at media-facing events, and has a penchant for bluster and indignation. In a way, that has been good because it has helped money and control rightly flow down to the local level where it belongs. However, when he gets his money and power Bronco tends to piss it away in stupid places, and he is ham-fisted and confrontational when he (ab)uses his power.

He way overspends on roads to the detriment of public transportation, he needlessly supports a hare-brained scheme to set up a new bureaucracy to handle curbside recycling instead of contracting it out to those existing operations that have the people and infrastructure (costing far more than it should and causing the rollout to be delayed further) and he aggressively pushes to annex surrounding lands instead of making more efficient use of land within existing municipal boundaries. From what I see in the policy decisions he makes they tend to be in the best interests of his large corporate campaign donors and not the city in general.

He is also very weak in diplomacy. He has an abrasive personality (some who know him say he is a real jerk), and it comes through in his confrontations with everyone from transit unions to the province, to his dealings with the MD of Rockyview. He is a tax-and-spend Liberal and is loathe to tighten the belt, and when taxes and the cost of business in the city start pushing business development out of the city he doesn't fix the problem, he makes a pest of himself instead (witness his dealings with Ranchers Choice and the developers of the Crossiron Mills shopping centre in Balzac).

No, Calgary isn't an exception to the rule. Unfortunately though it has a few bright spots in council right now it is nearly as inept as any other big city gov't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would say that Calgary's city council has "large levels of confidence" is really stretching it, considering the abysmal voter turnout. Sure, almost 2 of 3 votes cast were for Bronconnier, but what does it say when only 1 of 5 people even bother to vote? Is it really a vote of confidence when you take 15 eligible voters, and only TWO actually went out and officially declared support for the winner? Don't assume that if the 80 percent of non-voters were to cast ballots that they'd vote with the other 20. Trust me, Bronco's REAL approval rating is very likely UNDER 50 percent factoring in everyone. There are two reasons he is still mayor: He isn't so completely inept that people are motivated to go out and vote him out of office, and the competing candidates are unknown, nutjobs or both.

And when it comes to aldermen, there weren't "few" exceptions, there were a sizeable number of exceptions and a couple of close races. For example, Helene Laroque was such an incompetent alderman that even with the backing of socialist and union groups (and the largest campaign budget) she came out in last place, and with some incumbents not running again there was some competition. It's clear to me that there isn't widespread consensus and approval in Calgary when it comes to municipal politics that you suggest there is.

Bronconnier has been good at media-facing events, and has a penchant for bluster and indignation. In a way, that has been good because it has helped money and control rightly flow down to the local level where it belongs. However, when he gets his money and power Bronco tends to piss it away in stupid places, and he is ham-fisted and confrontational when he (ab)uses his power.

He way overspends on roads to the detriment of public transportation, he needlessly supports a hare-brained scheme to set up a new bureaucracy to handle curbside recycling instead of contracting it out to those existing operations that have the people and infrastructure (costing far more than it should and causing the rollout to be delayed further) and he aggressively pushes to annex surrounding lands instead of making more efficient use of land within existing municipal boundaries. From what I see in the policy decisions he makes they tend to be in the best interests of his large corporate campaign donors and not the city in general.

He is also very weak in diplomacy. He has an abrasive personality (some who know him say he is a real jerk), and it comes through in his confrontations with everyone from transit unions to the province, to his dealings with the MD of Rockyview. He is a tax-and-spend Liberal and is loathe to tighten the belt, and when taxes and the cost of business in the city start pushing business development out of the city he doesn't fix the problem, he makes a pest of himself instead (witness his dealings with Ranchers Choice and the developers of the Crossiron Mills shopping centre in Balzac).

No, Calgary isn't an exception to the rule. Unfortunately though it has a few bright spots in council right now it is nearly as inept as any other big city gov't.

No. the voters overwhelmingly re-elected the current aldermen and mayor with a couple of exceptions. For the the best educated population in Canada is pleased with the city administration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Borg care to tell us what province and county this taxation Shangri-la you live in is ? I have .9 of an acre on Lake Simcoe with a slightly larger home and my taxes are almost 4 times of yours .

Are you located north of the tree line ?

That would be rural Alberta, my taxes on 1/4 of land and 1800sqft house fully developed $600per year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That would be rural Alberta, my taxes on 1/4 of land and 1800sqft house fully developed $600per year.

Well I must admit we also own a little raw land in B.C. - 1/4 section with power to the boundary and oiled road - we pay almost 200 bucks a year for that place - but then again it only has mountain and valley views and a real nice creek with trout in it - and one small but very pretty log cabin with no power hooked to it.

One raw quarter in Saskatchewan is being farmed by a neighbour and I think we pay about the same as the B.C. place. We certainly see more income from the land rent than we pay on annual taxes.

Ontario taxes - especially in the now infamous green zone - punishing - got to love the socialists.

Residents love to bitch and moan and then do nothing about it. Hell most could not find city hall if it was attached to their ass let alone even think about attending a budget meeting so they could speak their piece.

99.99% of people are sheep and council knows it - leaders lead (in the direction THEY choose) and followers complain.

Residents get the government they deserve.

Do not like it?

Change it - or better - run for a position and suck up a few tax dollars for yourself.

Borg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When you say "rural Alberta " just how rural are we speaking ? How far from Calgary or Edmonton , which ever is closer ? I am sure i could find cheap taxes here in Ontario if i wanted to live 50 miles from Sudbury

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It just seems to me that every time I read about municipal government it's another example of how incredibly poor fiscal managers the municipalities are, how guided by narrow interests they are, and how incompetent at managing almost everything about their city these councils are.

I know that Toronto's city council is almost completely incompetent but they're genius compared to the council in Ottawa. And I've heard some strange things about Vancouver's municipal government. Montreal's is even worse. Though they're still better than Ottawa's.

Is it something about the kind of person who gets involved in municipal government? I read once that the NDP are far more heavily represented at the municipal level because they're the only party that actively helps candidates with money and organization. That may be true. Most of the hair-brained idiocy I read and see from municipal government comes from the wacky left of the political spectrum.

I would not say toronto genius compared to ottawa.They have some major flaws.I think part of the issue is people don't to alot of research and just think other citys are better for the most part.In terms how they are with money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes

Many smaller communities are running a balanced budget. My property taxes went down last year - and I do not expect a significant increase for several years.

Our 150 acre home place includes a large barn - 100 x 120, a brick house - 1400 sq ft, a 40 x 80 shop and a 40 x 24 shop. Several large out buildings with no power are interspersed through out the place.

Great services to the home place.

Total taxes last year are less than 1400 dollars.

Larger communities are usually very left leaning and do theri best to continue with social re-engineerin - which is costly.

Borg

As a farmer you can also write off your taxes, hydro, etc. and IF you make a profit, you always show you haven't right??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must agree with MSH, Calgary's municipal gov't is abysmal. Our mayor is a tax-and-spend liberal to the nth degree. Some of the other hare-brained proposals and spending schemes from our city hall would make anyone who is responsible for their own dollar shudder with revulsion. Our mayor only knows how to bleat to the province and the taxpayer for more money, and then squander it, only to end up bleating for more. Well, MSH says it all well enough.

(oddly, word on the street is that the mayor likely won't run for another term..by some coincidence, the proposed LRT expansion in the city (plans for which were 'strong-armed' though the electoral feedback process) is going to go right through some property he owns...so, to avoid speculation of 'conflict of interest', he would have to step down.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...