Community News Local governance

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Jun 02, 2016 Editor

Dr Robert Bish Makes Recommendations for Regional Governance 

Dr. Robert Bish, professor emeritus, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria, is the lead author of the recently published Fraser BISH-Robert-232-x-290 (1)Institute paper
Governing Greater Victoria: The Role of Elected Officials and Shared Services”.

In May’s issue of Saanich Voice Online (SVO) we asked Dr. Bish to briefly summarize his report. We also asked the professor to speak to some of the issues surrounding amalgamation vs a regional and multi-municipal system.

In this issue of SVO (June, 2016) we’ve asked Dr. Bish to speak to his four top recommendations for the Capital Region.

Dr. Bish: “We anticipate regional issues to continually increase in importance and they may require the CRD to be able to have more capacity to deal with them even if there are not mutual benefits for everyone who is affected by particular decisions. We do want to approach this incrementally, however, relying on agreement of the municipalities to understand that this is a desirable development for all of them. Two of our recommendations move in this direction.

“The first is to consider a regional arterial highway system related to public transit. This is common in most metropolitan areas in North America and when combined with the CRD role in water and sewers it would provide for better planning of all infrastructures for the future.

“The second is our recommendation that the provincial government amend legislation to allow regional districts to directly elect their Board chair. It is extremely difficult for the Mayor of a community who wants to be re-elected in that community to be the major political spokesperson on regional issues. It is too much for one person. Having an election for the Board chair would raise the political visibility of the regional district and give it more political legitimacy. By dividing the authority of the elected Board chair from that of the CAO who manages the service delivery would also free the CAO to really focus on internal management. We believe this could have a major impact for promoting a regional perspective while still keeping the regional district integrated with and providing services agreed upon by municipalities.

‘Our recommendations related to improving internal efficiency are aimed at councillors who may not pay as close as attention to their regional district committees as they do to their municipal ones. This places greater responsibility on management within the CRD. As well, our 13 municipalities have evolved different ways of producing services and we think that there are opportunities through careful comparisons to improve efficiency and give tax payers better value for money.

“And finally, we all know that the central city faces expenditures on local services for commuters and shoppers who come into the city and may have more residents who have social problems than outlying municipalities.   There is evidence that the higher taxes on business property, which is also concentrated in the central city, may cover these additional costs but we do not know for sure. British Columbia has good policy of financing and delivering welfare and income redistributive services from the provincial government but there are still local problems, including homelessness that may benefit from regional solutions. We have recommended the study of these fiscal issues like has been done in Vancouver.