Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Working together delivers high-quality, cost-effective services in Metro Vancouver

I was having lunch with a friend and his family last week. His family lives on the North Shore, and the topic of amalgamation came up. The “A” word is well known in Langley, so I thought I would give his family my thoughts on the matter.

The short of it is that throughout Canada, with Toronto and Montreal being the classic examples, amalgamation has resulted in a loss of voice for residents on local matters, higher taxes, and more bureaucracy with no increase in services. In my books, this is not good.

What I believe people want when they talk about amalgamation is local governments working together to deliver services where economies of scale matter; delivering better service for less money than if one municipality did it alone. This is shared service delivery.

Water service is a great example of this in our region. Most Metro Vancouver municipalities are part of the Greater Vancouver Water District. Because of this, we have the highest-quality drinking water of any region in Canada, delivered at a great price to residents.

It may come as a surprise to some Langley residents, but Langley City is in the top third of largest municipalities in the province. Langley City also participates in the shared service delivery model. About half of our operating expenditures use shared service delivery models.

As an example, policing services are delivered in partnership with the Township of Langley and the federal government. The Langley Emergency Program and animal control are delivered in partnership with the Township of Langley. 911 services are delivered regionally.

Langley City’s library is part of the Fraser Valley Regional Library system which serves 14 local governments, and is the largest library system in the province.

Water, sewer, and garbage services are delivered in partnership with the Metro Vancouver regional district.

TransLink provides funding for regional roads, and delivers transit service.

In Langley City, this has created a win-win. We have local autonomy, but also take advantage of high-quality services that are delivered at scale.

On Vancouver Island, amalgamation has been a hot topic in the capital region. The provincial government issued a report last year that recommended service integration, not amalgamation.

The following table is from that report:

Table 6.1: Opportunities for Further Integration of Existing Services. Source: Capital Integrated Services and Governance Initiative.

The shared service model works well in Langley City and Metro Vancouver. Could more services be delivered using a shared model? For sure, and I believe we are on that path in our region.

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