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
- 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
- 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.
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
How to proceed
A municipality interested in partnering with another local
government should consider the following five-step process:
- 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:
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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,
- 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
- the specific roles and responsibilities of all parties in the
- 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
- 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
Certain types of expertise (e.g., legal, financial, personnel) will
be required to properly complete many of these tasks.
- 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.
- 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.