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White Paper on Metro Vancouver Regional Governance Reform

White Paper on Metro Vancouver Regional Governance Reform

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Published by: Paul on Dec 15, 2009
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History of Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver, originally established in 1967 as the Greater Vancouver Regional District,was formed under the basis that municipalities could accomplish certain shared goalsmore effectively and efficiently through collaboration, rather than competition.Precursors to the GVRD include the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District(1914), the Greater Vancouver Water District (1926), and the Lower Mainland RegionalPlanning Board (1949). Provincial legislation initiated in 1965 formed regional districts tocreate a legal framework for cooperative planning and service provision. Throughout the years, the GVRD gained and lost various regional responsibilities. Inaddition to water, sewage, and planning, the GVRD has also had authority over hospitals,regional parks, municipal labour relations, solid waste management, public housing, airquality and pollution, and regional transit.
Governance Structure
Metro Vancouver is governed by a Board comprised of elected representatives from eachmember municipality. Number of directors and votes per municipality is determined bypopulation size - one vote per 20,000 residents.
The modern role of regions
Cities and regions are increasingly becoming the economic engines of the nation-state.Canada continues to gradually shift from a rural, resource-based country, to an urban,knowledge and service-based economy. The three big cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, and their surrounding regions, are the gateways to our nation and requireinterconnected planning and strategic investments to succeed on the international stage.Cities must work together to accomplish broader goals of competitiveness in the 21stcentury. For a region to be successful, it will require more than open borders andaccessible capital, but a focus on increasing quality of life, a clean environment, a robustand sustainable transport network, and vibrant cultural opportunities - all ambitious goalsthat cannot be achieved with the resources of a single city.
While Metro Vancouver accomplished a number of laudable achievements throughout theyears, the organization has been plagued during the past decade by a lack of leadership
White Paper for Regional Governance Reform
Paul Hillsdon, December 2009
and transparency. Metro’s most notable successes in recent history culminated in the late90’s with the ratification of the Livable Region Strategic Plan in 1996 and the creation of  TransLink in 1999.Since then, Metro has attempted to undertake a number of initiatives, often times with littlevisible success. The organization is several years behind completion of an update to theLRSP, and continues internal debate over how to pay for the numerous upgrades andexpansions required to the water and sewage systems. Meanwhile, Metro has lost theinterest and attention of the public.Concurrently, municipalities have been beset with ever growing problems that are beyondtheir scope and ability, including sustainable transportation options, affordable housing,economic development, and climate change.
Proposal: A new governance structure
It is therefore proposed that a new governance structure be developed that would increaseleadership and accountability, decrease parochialism, all the while retaining the successfulcollaborative approach to regional planning and service provision.
White Paper for Regional Governance Reform
Paul Hillsdon, December 2009
ChairpersonCommissioner Advisory BoardMetro AssemblyDirectly elected. Establishes policy direction and createsannual budget. Appoints commissioners. Appointed by Chairperson. Leads Metro department.Works with Advisory Board. Advises Commissioner on plans and policy specifics. Appointed by Commissioner from Assembly nominationlist.Executive branchLegislative branchFederation of municipally elected representatives, basedon population. Capacity to propose policy, veto budget,and remove Chairperson.
 The new governance structure is a strong mayor form of mayor-council government.Similar structures exist in New York City, Chicago, and London. Under this new structure,Metro Vancouver will retain its current federation of municipalities under the legislativebranch, and add an executive branch which will increase accountability and leadershipopportunities.
Executive branch
 The executive branch will consist of a Chairperson and Commissioners for eachdepartment. Via the executive branch, Metro will headed by a directly elected Chairperson. Throughelections, attention and focus will be drawn to regional issues and create a dialogueamong residents. Elections will also finally provide residents with direct accountability, aswell as the means to be more influential on the direction of the region. The elected Chairperson will set regional policy direction and establish the annual budget. This agenda will be influenced by consultation with member municipalities, commissioners,and the public at-large. This agenda will be presented annually to the legislative branchthrough a Throne Speech, at which point the Metro Assembly will amend or pass thebudget. It will be the responsibility of the Chairperson to create a yearly plan and budgetthat balances the desires of member municipalities with the long term direction of theregion. The Chairperson will be a mediator, facilitator, and conciliator.Each department of Metro will be run by a Commissioner. Commissioners are appointedby the Chairperson. Commissioners must consult with an advisory board, which willconsist of Commissioner appointed members chosen from a Metro Assembly nominationlist. In addition, three members of each advisory board will consist of Metro Assemblyrepresentatives. Advisory boards will provide recommendations to the Commissioner on monthly businessmatters and yearly budget priorities. This executive structure will provide a large amount of autonomy to the Chairperson tolead the region and implement various plans or initiatives. There will however be a numberof checks and balances provided through the legislative branch - the Metro Assembly.
Legislative branch
 The Metro Assembly mirrors the existing Metro Vancouver board. It will consist of appointed locally elected representatives from each member municipality based onpopulation size.
White Paper for Regional Governance Reform
Paul Hillsdon, December 2009

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