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A Bibliography on Local Government in
British Columbia - Continued
Politics at the Local Level
There are a variety of themes present in the general Canadian
literature about municipal politics. Many of these can roughly be
divided into questions of structural reform and questions about the
distribution of power in the community.
One of the main issues under the first of these categories is the
merits of non-partisanship versus having parties at the local level.
Arguments for non-partisanship have a long history and include: that
most local issues are "administrative" in character,
rather than "political"; that there is no point getting
local issues entangled with acrimonious political party debates they
have no inherent connection with; and that parties would result in
favouritism in the awarding of contracts and the provision of
services. Modern arguments stress the first two of these points.
Those who favour parties at the local level usually argue for one of
two variants. Some support a system featuring civic parties
structured on the same lines as parties at other levels of
government, which would give a certain continuity to policies,
stimulate interest in local politics, and provide a good training
ground for party activists. Others call for "civic
parties" with no official connections to provincial or federal
parties. The latter alternative tends to be favoured in the academic
literature because it would make it clear where candidates stood and
increase accountability without tying local elections into
provincial or federal issues -- something which can be a
double-edged sword for any party.
A second structural reform theme is the merit of ward systems
compared to "at large" elections where the candidates run
city-wide. There are many facets to the debate, but one of the keys
is whether ward elections should be seen as encouraging narrow
neighbourhood interests at the expense of the city as a whole, or
whether they should be seen as encouraging the representation of
diverse interests which get submerged in city-wide elections. The
intensity of debates over the ward system versus at-large elections
in Vancouver is one of the more striking aspects of municipal
politics in British Columbia. It is not a major issue in the rest of
Low voter turnout is another issue which is of concern to
academics. Various explanations and possible solutions to the
problem have been suggested, with the question arising as to whether
low turnout is indicative of satisfaction or apathy. Changing the
frequency of local elections and the introduction of parties can be
partly seen as structural means of stimulating interest in local
There is a longstanding political debate about the structure of
power in communities -- is power widely distributed, with a variety
of groups having some influence on political decisions, or does a
small elite wield disproportionate influence? So far as local
politics is concerned, in practice this is often a debate about how
much influence the property industry has, as opposed to groups
favouring "quality of life" concerns or social reforms.
Concern about power is reflected in various themes in the
literature. For instance, who gets elected, and what type of
policies do they favour? At least until the 1960s, the answer was
often pro-development businessmen. Since then, more attention has
been paid to neighbourhood preservation and quality of life issues.
It would appear that women and members of minority ethnic groups
have been more likely to get elected in recent years, but detailed
academic studies on this point are still lacking in B.C.
Concerns about power are also prominent in the literature about
interest groups, although they are not the only focus of attention.
What issues do groups coalesce around; how permanent are various
groups; under what conditions do interest groups turn into parties;
who joins what types of groups; how much influence do different
groups have; and, are interest groups a good thing? The answer to
the last question may depend on what gets defined as an interest
Looking at power in a slightly different sense, it is worth
noting that the formal powers of Canadian mayors are generally not
extensive. As a result, their abilities at persuading people to
support various policies, and their administrative approaches,
become major aspects of how they accomplish their aims. That is,
informal styles of leadership as well as formal powers are
Election issues in recent years have often taken the form of
neighbourhood preservation versus development. Cost concerns have
also been prominent, both in terms of property tax rates and the
related matter of what amenities and levels of service should be
provided. Social issues may also arise, ranging from whether Sunday
shopping should be permitted to whether cities should declare
themselves "nuclear weapons-free" zones. In B.C. there are
also recurrent referendums on municipal incorporation or the
amalgamation of semi-rural areas into larger municipalities.
In addition to the works listed here, see also the entries under
"Participation and Development Issues" in section 9
A. General Canadian Works
Higgins, Donald J. H. Local and Urban
Politics in Canada. Toronto: Gage, 1986.
Kopinak, Kathryn M. "Women in Canadian
Municipal Politics: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back." Canadian
Review of Sociology and Anthropology 22 (Aug.1985): 394-410
Leo, Christopher. Strong Government, Weak
Government: Classifying Municipal Structural Change. Research
and Working Paper no. 23, Winnipeg: Institute of Urban Studies,
University of Winnipeg, 1986.
Magnusson, Warren and Andrew Sancton,
eds. City Politics in Canada. Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1983.
Masson, Jack K. and James D. Anderson,
eds. Emerging Party Politics in Urban Canada.
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1972.
Tindal, C. R. and S. Nobes Tindal.
Local Government in Canada. 2nd ed. Toronto:
McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1984.
B. Works about British Columbia
Barman, Jean. "Neighbourhood and Community
in Interwar Vancouver: Residential Differentiation and Civic Voting
Behaviour." B.C. Studies, no. 69-70 (1986): 97-141.
Double issue also published as Vancouver Past: Essays in Social
History, ed. Robert A. J. McDonald and
Jean Barman. Vancouver: University of British Columbia
Bernard, Andre, Jacques Leveille
and Guy Lord. The Political and Administrative
Structures of the Metropolitan Region of Vancouver. Ottawa:
Ministry of State of Urban Affairs, 1975. Cover title begins Profile:
Cummings, Don L. "A Successful
Research to Referendum Trail Revisited." Recreation Canada 44
(Oct. 1986): 6-8, 10-12. About research done on citizen preferences
before a recreation referendum was held in the District of Coquitlam.
Easton, Robert and Paul Tennant.
"Vancouver Civic Party Leadership: Backgrounds, Attitudes and
Non-Civic Party Affiliations." B.C. Studies, no 2
Gutstein, Donald. "Vancouver." In City
Politics in Canada, ed. Warren Magnusson and
Andrew Sancton, 189-221. Toronto: University of Toronto
Gutstein, Donald. Vancouver Ltd.
Toronto: James Lorimer, 1975.
Halverson, Douglas Andrew. "Local-level
Politics in a Rural British Columbia Community: Community Life Under
the Metropolis Satellite System." M.A. thesis, University of
British Columbia, 1973. About Bella Coola.
Leo, Christopher. The Politics of Urban
Development -- Canadian Urban Expressway Disputes. Monographs
on Canadian Public Administration, no. 3, Toronto: The Institute of
Public Administration of Canada, 1977. Includes some Vancouver
Ley, David, ed. Community Participation and
the Spatial Order of the City. British Columbia Geographical
Series, no. 19. Vancouver: Tantalus Research Limited, 1974.
Ley, David. "Liberal Ideology and the
Postindustrial City. " Annals of the Association American
Geographers 70 (June 1980): 238-58. Places the ideas of TEAM
(The Electors Action Movement), a Vancouver civic party, in a broad
Ley, David and John Mercer.
"Locational Conflict and the Politics of Consumption." Economic
Geography 56 (April 1982): 89-109. About politics and land use
conflicts in Vancouver, 1973-75.
McDonald, Robert A. J. "The Business Elite
and Municipal Politics in Vancouver." Urban History Review
11 (Feb 1983): 1-14.
McPhail, I. R. "Local
Government in British Columbia: A Case Study." In Malaspina
Papers: Studies in Human and Physical Geography, B.C.
Geographical Series, no. 17. ed. Roger Leigh,
51-56. Vancouver: Tantalus Research Limited, 1973. About Kamloops.
Miller, Fern. "Vancouver Civic Political
Parties: Developing a Model of Party-system Change and
Stabilization." B.C. Studies, no. 25 (1975): 3-31.
Payne-O'Connor, Josephine. Sharing Power:
Women in Politics: Vancouver Island Profiles. Victoria: Kachina
Report No. 1 of the Select Standing Committee on
Municipal Affairs and Housing. British Columbia.
Legislative Assembly. Journals. Session 1983-84. Feb. 7,
1984, p. 299-303. About the concurrent triennial election system
introduced by Bill 45 in 1987. (There is no separately published
Sinnott, Emmett and Paul Tennant.
"The Origins of Taxicab Limitation in Vancouver City (or 'Good
Try Anyway, Stanley Anderson')." B.C. Studies, no. 49
Smith, Andrea B. "The CCF, NPA, and Civic
Change: Provincial Forces Behind Vancouver Politics 1930-1940."
B.C. Studies, no. 53 (1982): 45-65.
Smith, Patrick J. "Open Government: Recent
Policy Options and Applications in Canada." Planning and
Administration 11 (Autumn 1984): 54-62. Discusses B.C. and Nova
Sproule-Jones, Mark. "A Description and
Explanation of Citizen Participation in a Canadian
Municipality." Public Choice 17 (Spring 1974): 73-83.
Sproule-Jones, Mark and Adrie Van
Klaveren. "Local Referenda and Size of Municipality in
British Columbia: A Note on Two of Their Interrelationships." B.C.
Studies, no. 8 (1970-71): 47-50.
Sproule-Jones, Mark and Kenneth D. Hart.
"A Public-Choice Model of Political Participation." Canadian
Journal of Political Science 6 (June 1973): 175-94. Data used
is from the city of Saanich.
Tennant, Paul. "Bylaws and Setbacks: The
Oil Industry and Local Government in British Columbia." B.C.
Studies, no. 9 (1971): 3-14.
Tennant, Paul. "Vancouver Civic Politics,
1929-1980." B.C. Studies, no. 46 (1980): 3-27.
Tennant, Paul and David Zirnhelt.
"Metropolitan Government in Vancouver: The Strategy of Gentle
Imposition." Canadian Public Administration 16 (Spring
Understanding Vancouver 2. City of Vancouver:
City Planning Department, 1979. Includes all sorts of information
relevant to local government issues.
Vancouver (B.C.) Governmental Review Commission.
Report of the City of Vancouver Governmental Review Commission.
Vancouver, 1979. Chairman: L. S. Eckardt.
Wickberg, Edgar. "Chinese and Canadian
Influences on Chinese Politics in Vancouver, 1900-1947." B.C.
Studies, no. 45 (1980): 37-55. Some discussion of local
government issues, but not the main focus.
Please send any comments or questions to Nicola.Marotz@gov.bc.ca
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