Monday, November 26, 2018

Smaller, more accountable local government possible because of regional service delivery

Over the weekend, I met with someone who is politically involved in the Township of Langley. The topic of amalgamation was brought up by the person who I was having coffee with. I asked them how does amalgamation benefit Langley City residents?

One of the reasons why people believe that amalgamation is a good idea is because they believe that it will lead to more cost-effective delivery of services. More often than not, this doesn’t materialize. The Fraser Institute, which is a conservative advocacy organization, states that amalgamation “weakens incentives for efficiency and responsiveness to local needs.” They believe that there should be more, smaller municipalities.

In some cases, it makes sense to provide services at a larger scale. Some examples include police, water, sewer, and transit service delivery. In Metro Vancouver, we have a federation of municipalities who work together to delivery these services.

For example, Langley City would not be able to deliver water or sewer services on its own. Delivering clean water to businesses and residents is a major operation in our region with a planned operating budget of $289 million, and a $231 million capital projects budget in 2019. The regional sewer service is also a large-scale operation with a planned 2019 operating budget of $308 million, and a capital projects budget of $564 million. These two regional services employ over 900 people.

It would make zero sense to have a Langley City transit agency as most people travel between municipalities daily. TransLink, which delivers transit service in our region, has an operation budget of over $1 billion.

Even policing services are currently highly integrated. Langley City and Township have a joint RCMP detachment which utilizes regionally funded teams, such as for homicide investigation, when required.

Regionalization allow communities like Langley City to focus on local matters such as parks, roads, recreational and cultural opportunities, and land-use planning. Because of our size, members of council and city staff are highly aware of local geography, concerns, and solutions. Our smaller size allows us to quickly respond to local matters. It also leads to more accountable and transparent government.

The delivery of services where large-scale is important is already regionalized in Metro Vancouver. Having some of the larger municipalities split into several smaller municipalities might actually provide for even better government in our region.

A study about the capital region on Vancouver Island was released last year. It noted that amalgamation wasn’t the answer, but the better coordination of services where larger-scale is important. This is something that we do relatively well in Metro Vancouver today.

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