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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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White Paper for Regional Governance Reform

Paul Hillsdon, December 2009

Foreword
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 goals more 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 Regional Planning Board (1949). Provincial legislation initiated in 1965 formed regional districts to create a legal framework for cooperative planning and service provision. Throughout the years, the GVRD gained and lost various regional responsibilities. In addition to water, sewage, and planning, the GVRD has also had authority over hospitals, regional parks, municipal labour relations, solid waste management, public housing, air quality and pollution, and regional transit. Governance Structure Metro Vancouver is governed by a Board comprised of elected representatives from each member municipality. Number of directors and votes per municipality is determined by population 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 require interconnected planning and strategic investments to succeed on the international stage. Cities must work together to accomplish broader goals of competitiveness in the 21st century. For a region to be successful, it will require more than open borders and accessible capital, but a focus on increasing quality of life, a clean environment, a robust and sustainable transport network, and vibrant cultural opportunities - all ambitious goals that cannot be achieved with the resources of a single city. Problem While Metro Vancouver accomplished a number of laudable achievements throughout the years, 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 late 90’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 little visible success. The organization is several years behind completion of an update to the LRSP, and continues internal debate over how to pay for the numerous upgrades and expansions required to the water and sewage systems. Meanwhile, Metro has lost the interest and attention of the public. Concurrently, municipalities have been beset with ever growing problems that are beyond their 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 increase leadership and accountability, decrease parochialism, all the while retaining the successful collaborative approach to regional planning and service provision.

Executive branch Directly elected. Establishes policy direction and creates annual 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 nomination list. Legislative branch

Chairperson

Commissioner

Advisory Board

Metro Assembly

Federation of municipally elected representatives, based on population. Capacity to propose policy, veto budget, and remove Chairperson.

White Paper for Regional Governance Reform

Paul Hillsdon, December 2009

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 legislative branch, and add an executive branch which will increase accountability and leadership opportunities. Executive branch The executive branch will consist of a Chairperson and Commissioners for each department. Via the executive branch, Metro will headed by a directly elected Chairperson. Through elections, attention and focus will be drawn to regional issues and create a dialogue among residents. Elections will also finally provide residents with direct accountability, as well 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 branch through a Throne Speech, at which point the Metro Assembly will amend or pass the budget. It will be the responsibility of the Chairperson to create a yearly plan and budget that balances the desires of member municipalities with the long term direction of the region. The Chairperson will be a mediator, facilitator, and conciliator. Each department of Metro will be run by a Commissioner. Commissioners are appointed by the Chairperson. Commissioners must consult with an advisory board, which will consist of Commissioner appointed members chosen from a Metro Assembly nomination list. In addition, three members of each advisory board will consist of Metro Assembly representatives. Advisory boards will provide recommendations to the Commissioner on monthly business matters and yearly budget priorities. This executive structure will provide a large amount of autonomy to the Chairperson to lead the region and implement various plans or initiatives. There will however be a number of 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 on population size.

White Paper for Regional Governance Reform

Paul Hillsdon, December 2009

The Assembly members will provide not only individual area recommendations, but also suggest regional priorities to the Chairperson. Through a collaborative process, the Metro Assembly will set forth their agreed upon priorities to the Chairperson before the annual budget process. This process will reduce parochialism and encourage member municipalities to work together to get their joint recommendations in the final budget. The Metro Assembly will have the ability to veto the budget with a 75% majority. The Assembly will also have the ability to remove the Chairperson through a vote of nonconfidence that requires the agreement of all members to pass. In addition, the Assembly will have the responsibility of selecting a member to become temporary Chair if the elected Chairperson is removed or steps down from office. New responsibilities The new Metro Vancouver will absorb the existing responsibilities of the organization and propose new departments. These will consist initially of: - Urban Services (sewage, water, waste management) - Environment and Climate Change - Housing and Development - Regional Planning - Economic Development - TransLink Future departments could include regional health or regional policing. As previously mentioned, each department will be headed by a Chairperson-appointed Commissioner, who consults with an Advisory Board. The new TransLink Under this new model, more resources will be able to be put into areas that demand a regional focus, such as transportation, housing, and climate change. Perhaps the largest change under this model, beyond the governance structure, is the readoption of TransLink under Metro. Transit services have previously been shared by the Province and the GVRD under various mechanisms. Currently, TransLink attempts to align its transportation plans with the regional land use plans, although there is no requirement for the two to work in unison. This, despite the consensus that transportation investments must be planned in tandem with land use plans to achieve future sustainability goals.

White Paper for Regional Governance Reform

Paul Hillsdon, December 2009

The current setup of multiple semi-public and private boards creates unnecessary bureaucracy and confusion around who is ultimately responsible for the agency. Under this new model, TransLink will be more accountable and agile. Transparency will be achieved through the department Advisory board, the Metro Assembly, and the directly-elected Chairperson. Furthermore, all responsibilities of TransLink will be traced back to the Commissioner. It will also finally create the framework to integrate regional land use planning with transportation infrastructure. This model is similar to Transport of London, which operates the famous London Underground. It is a department under the Mayor of London. Expanded and integrated departments With renewed leadership in the organization, the new Metro will be able to utilize its resources more efficiently to integrate all departments to achieve its goals. For example, the Housing and Development department could partner with TransLink and Regional Planning to purchase land surrounding future transit hubs and build urban villages that will support the initial infrastructure investment, while also meeting affordable housing goals.

Summary
By establishing a new executive branch to Metro, the agency will gain accountability to the public, reduce parochialism, improve leadership opportunities, and increase public awareness of regional issues.

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