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Governance &
Structure Division
 

Partnering with Local Government

 

The Community Charter provides a range of partnering mechanisms for local governments. The Charter provides municipalities the explicit authority to provide local services through another local government and other public authorities including a first nation, a school board, a health authority, the federal government and the province. The basic authority is contained in the Charter's fundamental powers provision. Other sections of the Charter help to define the authority:

  • Division 1 of Part 3 provides council with the power to make a partnering agreement with a public authority. The Community Charter defines a partnering agreement as an agreement between the municipality and a public authority under which the public authority agrees to provide a service on behalf of the municipality. Certain agreements must be approved by the electors. (e.g. liabilities over 5 years)
  • Under Division 3 of Part 2, two or more municipalities may, by bylaw of each participating council, establish an inter-municipal scheme. The scheme may provide for certain functions of one municipality to be exercised in another municipality, such as a service or regulation.

While not strictly a partnering arrangement, municipalities may provide services outside their boundaries. This can only be done with consent of the other local government.
 

When to consider

Local governments choose to collaborate in the provision of services, whether through a regional district, under a partnering agreement or through an inter-municipal scheme, for a variety of reasons. Consider the following points:
  • Capture Economies of Scale ― Several municipal services have strong economies of scale that can only be maximized by increasing the service area, often beyond one municipality's boundary. A large recreation centre or sewage treatment plant, for example, may be run most economically when used by the populations of two or more jurisdictions. The high fixed costs associated with these facilities can be more easily averaged-out over larger population bases.
  • Avoid Duplication ― It may be unnecessary for two or more municipalities to develop the organizations, and acquire the materials to provide the same specialized service. Consider the example of a dog squad for a local police force. One of the municipalities could assume responsibility for developing the squad and providing the service throughout the broader inter-municipal area.
  • Provide an Otherwise Unattainable Service ― There are several local services that individual municipalities may be unable to provide on their own. Recreation services (and, in particular, recreation facilities) fit into this category, as do libraries, theatres, specialized police and fire functions and other community services such as social planning. Some of these services can only be provided by pooling local government resources.
  • Promote Equity and Consistency ― Several services provided by one municipality have benefits that extend beyond the municipality's borders. Consider economic development, for example. The efforts of one municipality to attract and develop business will almost invariably benefit neighbouring centres. A decision by the benefiting municipalities to provide the service together may be necessary from the perspective of equity and to ensure consistent service provision. That is important to the users of services, especially where the service is one that does not necessarily recognize boundaries (eg. business licensing).
  • Use Existing Expertise ― One municipality may have developed the necessary expertise for a particular service. An agreement with other municipalities could make that expertise available to a broader region. A forensic police service and a high-angle emergency rescue service are just two examples.

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A common thread that runs through many of these examples is cost. In simple terms, municipalities often consider partnering with one another to provide important local government services when there is a potential to save money. The potential to improve overall service levels, particularly by offering services that could not otherwise be offered, is also an important driver. Finally, fairness is an important consideration.
 

How to proceed

A municipality interested in partnering with another local government should consider the following five-step process:
  1. Identify Opportunity or Need
    The first step in the process is for the municipality to identify a servicing opportunity or need that the municipality feels it should address. The specific need might be related to:
    • an existing service that needs to be expanded or improved;
    • an existing service that is proving too costly to provide; or
    • a new service for which the community has expressed a strong demand, that is not presently provided for.
    The specific need (or needs) might be identified through a formal strategic planning exercise involving council and the community. Alternatively, the need might be brought to the attention of council by a group in the community, or by a member of staff. The need might also be presented as a partnering opportunity by a neighbouring municipality.
     

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  2. Consider Methods of Service Provision
    Municipalities have at their disposal a wide range of methods for providing local services ― partnering with other local governments is just one of the choices available. Before embracing any particular approach, municipalities should examine carefully their needs and objectives related to the service in question, as well as the pros and cons of the various provision methods. Questions to explore include:
    • can the municipality afford to provide the service on its own, or does the municipality need to rely on others?
    • will other communities share the municipality's vision for the service?
    • what is the most cost-effective way of providing the service?
    • what method of provision would result in the highest level of service, for a given price?
    • is the municipality willing to share control over the service with another government (the willingness to share control is required, to some degree, in all partnerships)?
    • will the public accept the involvement of another municipality in the delivery of the service?
    • do other municipalities have assets or expertise that would benefit the service and its recipients?
    • do the municipality's collective agreements allow the municipality to consider partnering in the delivery of the service?
    • does the municipality have any experience in collaborative service provision?
     

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  3. Explore Partnering
    If the municipality determines that partnering with another local government is the preferred method, the municipality then needs to identify and approach prospective partners. Given the nature of local services, in most cases, prospective partners will be neighbouring jurisdictions, close enough to effectively share in the cost and benefits of a particular service.
     
    A number of issues need to be discussed with prospective partners, including:
    • each party's vision for the proposed service, and the extent to which the visions can be made to match one another;
    • each party's view with respect to the scope of the proposed service;
    • the anticipated cost of the service, and how costs are going to be shared among the participating jurisdictions;
    • views on governance for the service (e.g., how will decisions be made, and by whom);
    • the specific type of partnering arrangement to be pursued (e.g., a regional service through the regional district, the establishment of a joint but separate legal entity, a partnering agreement under the Community Charter);
    • the specific roles and responsibilities of all parties in the service;
    • the contributions required of each party (e.g., land, facility, expertise, etc.) to implement the arrangement; and
    • the conditions under which the parties should be allowed to exit the arrangement.
     

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  4. Develop the Arrangement
    At this step in the process, the municipality and its partner(s) would undertake the work required to actually develop the partnering arrangement. The following types of tasks need to be considered and/or undertaken:
    • the development of a memorandum of understanding to outline the vision and intent of the parties to the partnering arrangement;
    • the preparation of bylaws to give legal meaning to the arrangement, and to set out the arrangement's parameters;
    • the preparation of contracts (e.g., to lease or operate facilities) that may be required in addition to the bylaws;
    • addressing liability issues and other insurance/risk management issues that may arise;
    • dealing with labour relations concerns that may arise; and
    • obtaining the approval of electors, where required.
    Certain types of expertise (e.g., legal, financial, personnel) will be required to properly complete many of these tasks.
     
  5. Implement and Monitor
    Once the arrangement has been fully developed, the municipality and its partner(s) will be in a position to implement it. Ongoing monitoring of the arrangement is important. Periodic adjustments will need to be considered. Councils may find the processes for setting and measuring objectives and performance monitoring set out in the Guide to Progress Reporting (196 KB) helpful.

Please direct questions or comments to Advisory Services Branch.
 

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