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A Canadian City-region: Collective Public Goods and Suburbs as Free Riders

James Lightbody Political Science University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta Canada Email: jim.lightbody@ualberta.ca

Prepared for: Western Regional Science Association 51st Annual General Meeting Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii February 8 11, 2012

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A Canadian City-region: Collective Public Goods and Suburbs as Free Riders OUTLINE: 1. 2. 3. 4. Central argument and hypotheses Overview of the participants Observed free rider behaviour in suburbs Concluding assessment (and sidebar observation)

Draft text: Standard anthologies which describe Canadian city-regional or metropolitan area public policies and the politics by which they are developed have never introduced the free rider hypothesis in any attempt to evaluate the generic policy choices of suburban municipal councils. Especially in governmentally decentralized city-regions, these basically typical Canadian suburban policies may partly resolve some standing issues associated with central city periphery relationships, but the wider pattern of consequences has not been subjected to any serious critical analysis. Even the conversations that have emerged concerning asymmetric policy consequences have occurred only at moments of real or anticipated municipal consolidation initiatives. Thus the protagonists have been defined by the specific agendas of their particular institutional setting and the appropriate sanguine quip would be that attributed to American House Speaker Tip ONeill: Where you stand depends on where you sit. The purpose here is to examine the specific policies and programs of municipalities in two specific city-regions, as measured by a preliminary (and on-going) analysis of expenditures, with an eye to calculating if there are indeed substantive spending differences between Canadian suburbs and central cities. If there are, then the question becomes whether or not this pattern of difference constitutes some degree of free ride advantage for suburbs in their otherwise integrated social and economic metropolitan systems. Descriptive work has not been particularly helpful in explaining either why there has been suburban resistance to city-region municipal consolidation or, for that matter, why provincial authorities have either proceeded with it or not (Brunet-Jailly and Martin, 2010; Garcea and LeSage, 2005; Rothblatt and Sancton, 1998). This Garcea, Lesage justification for recent provincial inattention in the Winnipeg and Edmonton cases, even for the introduction of such low-level intervention as new regionalism forms of coordination and cooperation, is illustrative of the lack of analytical depth: The stumbling blocks to structural reform in both city-regions was disagreement among the principal municipal government stakeholders

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on the precise configuration of a new regional governance framework, even if it left the current municipalities intact (2005: 300-01). My point here is that, at least in the Edmonton case, Garcea and LeSage totally miss the point as they fail to discern that the only obvious reason for the absence of municipal re-structuring was the Alberta provincial ministrys commitment to the status quo. This commitment has remained constant, and obvious, for 30 years now, and was most cleanly revealed in the creation of the Alberta Capital Region Governance Review in December, 1998. It has been observed that the draft terms of reference (a single-page) begins with the governing principle to respect the abiding individualistic character of local communities and to describe existing municipal services and to advise on potential efficiencies (presumably through elaborating upon existing joint contracts for services) (Lightbody, 1999b: 29). The chair of that review was Lou Hyndman, a former Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly. He was not a random choice. In 1982, as a senior cabinet minister and member of its Priorities Committee, he had previously agreed with the decision to deny the Local Authorities Board (a quasi-judicial tribunal) order, after more than two years of hearings, to consolidate Edmonton and its two largest urban suburbs. Ergo, the choice of consultant, combined with clarifying statements from the Minister, herself the former reeve of one of Edmontons neighbouring counties (and the wealthiest in Alberta), the 12 month time frame to be permitted the review, plus the requirement that there be a consensus report on what local governments will accept in the way of structural adaptation certainly telegraphed what was to be expected. There would be no curiositydriven walkabout since any form of structural alternatives innovation faced the quadruple jeopardy of restrictive terms of reference, consultant bias, clear ministerial expectations, and the acquiescence of all municipal bodies presumably on the autopsy table. There is more to this story though, and it is revealed by the question; why was all of this elaborate preparatory theatre thought necessary? The existing structure of the local government system protects a structure of perceived privilege grounded by the psychology behind suburban life. The peri-urban fringe suburbs are all about particular service to this niche life-style. And, it is to be noted that this element in the region has strongly voted for the provincial Progressive Conservatives, the governing party since 1971. E.E. Schattschneider once astutely observed that All forms of political organization have a bias in favor of the exploitation of some kinds of conflict and the suppression of others because organization is the mobilization of bias (1960, 71). By the evidence, Albertas staunchly Conservative suburbs have got a pretty good deal going with city-regional arrangements which only requires of them the provision of services to their own wellheeled residents.

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In Canada, in cases such as Edmonton, where provincial authorities have relegated themselves to the sideline role of policy accommodation, there tends also to be no institutionalized external authority to point out the elephant in the room. This particularistic pachyderm feeds off the zoning games through which autonomous suburbs screen future residents and thus pre-determine the niche program requirements dedicated exclusively to their servicing. It is absolutely the case that all municipal administrators have done their sums and hold a pretty precise calculus of probable gains and losses from any reorganization of the status quo. The privilege of the larger suburban municipalities does not extend to the villages in the metropolitan systems however, and they remain poorest in population indicators, revenues and service provision. As are all other city-regions, the Canadian metropolitan area is a form of social organization. As such it is subject to the probabilities governing collective human behaviour prevalent in other forms of social organization. The city-region is not a huge bazaar populated by atomistic individuals and free-standing shops, but rather a complex actively-integrated community of social groups, economic and other corporations, public and private bureaucracies, cultural organizations and ethnic communities. It is thus entirely appropriate to apply hypotheses derived from group behaviour models to such a system in an effort to determine the relative strength of the collective strand in its political culture. However organized municipally, a city-region as a community has a natural obligation to provide certain collective public policies to its citizens. Where multiple autonomous local governments exist, this obligation is often the province of some wider-area agency with the power and resources to engage in redistributive policy-making, the structure of which is not the subject here (but see Lightbody, 1997). Summarily put, the enduring questions about city-regional governance are all grounded in the more effective provision of such collective public goods (Lightbody, 2006: 405-28). It is in their dissection of public choice theory in which the less benign elements of self-interest are portrayed as being paramount that Howlett and Ramesh, citing Buchanan, introduce their recognition of the free rider proposition: Each actor would prefer, if possible, to free ride, that is, to obtain a share in the surplus resulting from the action of other parties at no cost to themselves (2003: 23). The provision of collective public goods has always been a challenge to public choice insofar as they are seen as encouraging free riders. This occurs simply because, as Mancur Olson concluded, a collective good is, by definition, such that other individuals in the group cannot be kept from consuming it once any individual in the group has provided it for himself (1971: 35). In short, the conditions under which goods must be provided that are unavoidably open for all to consume are the ones

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on our dissecting table because anything else produced is tangential, private, or a localized life-style matter for specific municipalities. Where public choice advocacy does accept that not all collective action is undesirable, then because people will tend to maximize their own utilities, institutions must be designed so that individual behaviour will further the interests of the group, small or large (Howlett, Ramesh, 24). It is in the competition of definition between the collective versus non-collective public obligations (even where all are public goods) that the matter of free riders, most tangible in small groups, becomes a compelling question. This is simply because the bigger the organization the more it will be attractive to free riders. The question here is this: where a city-regional authority with the power and resources to engage in the production of collective public goods and redistributive policy-making does not exist, can it be demonstrated that free rider self-serving prevails? 1. Central argument and hypotheses In his study of economic rationality within human associations, The Logic of Collective Action (1965, 1971), Mancur Olson dissected the idea of the free rider with some precision and provides a better insight into suburban public policy behaviour than do public choice theorists. Olson calculates the sources for rational choices made in other forms of human association. He observes that the distribution of the burden of providing the public good in a small group will not be in proportion to the benefits conferred by the collective good (1971: 29). In elaborating, Olson makes the point that the problem for large and small groups in any organizational framework is that a public good which necessarily benefits the collective well-being by its very nature produces a recurring phenomenon: Though all of the members of the group therefore have a common interest in obtaining this collective benefit, they have no common interest in paying the cost of providing that collective good. Each would prefer that the others pay the entire cost, and ordinarily would get any benefit provided whether he had borne part of the cost or not (1971: 21). This is the issue considered here. Moreover, in a large organization the small scale of deviance by free riders in their own public policies is not likely to provoke any challenge to overall collective behaviour as it has little bearing on the overall price tag. Given Olsons basic assumption that, It follows from the very definition of a collective good that an individual cannot exclude the others in the group from the benefits of that amount of the public good that he provides for himself (1971: 28), then there are two hypotheses which I consider here as being applicable to city-regional policy delivery. These are a. Once a smaller member has the amount of the collective good he gets free from the largest member, he has more than he

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would have purchased for himself, and has no incentive to obtain any of the collective good at his own expense (Olson, 1971: 35). b. Where small groups with common interests are concerned, then, there is a systematic tendency for exploitation of the great by the small! (Olson 1971: 29, emphasis in original). Thus is the central flaw in public choice as applied to city-region governing unmasked. For example, and as we shall see, exploitive policy behaviour is most clearly observed where suburbs are able to piggyback their own operations (like fire or police protection, or access to specialized secondary schools) onto the basic capital investments already made by the central city. The direct result of such behaviour, in an extreme case where expenditures were analyzed, was a significant correlation between higher family incomes in a community and lower community property taxes (Lightbody, 1978: 496). Olsons implicit corollary to our second hypothesis would thus be this: The largest member, the member who would on his own provide the largest amount of the collective good, bears a disproportionate share of the burden of providing the collective good (1971: 35). In turn, smaller communities would gain a smaller fraction of the benefit of any amount of the collective good he provides than a larger member, and therefore has less incentive to provide additional amounts of the collective good. In other words, suburbs do not build pools and arenas and libraries for everyone in the city-region. They have no need to spend to add to the collective good since the fraction they get for free is so large relative to their own size! Even if the existence of multiple municipalities will yield a larger overall number of public facilities, not all will be intended for, nor accessible to, all cityregion residents. 2. Overview of the participants Edmonton is Albertas second large metropolitan area. By the 2001 census the regional population was 948,776, of whom 666,104 (71.0 per cent) lived in the central city. The Calgary region held 998,630, 922,315 (or 92.4 per cent) of whom lived in the core. By 2007, the respective populations stood at 1,103,000 and 1,155,000 and the municipal governing structures remained unchanged. While the Edmonton region remains governmentally polycentric, Calgary is more unitary with eight per cent of residents residing in its seven autonomous suburban municipalities. There are 24 general purpose local governments in Edmontons CMA (A Census Metropolitan Area is a Statistics Canada construct with a population of at least 100,000, focused on a core city and its daytime commuter-shed, respecting municipal boundaries and thus a fair approximation of the 33 Canadian city-regions). The free-standing Alberta cities of Red Deer and Lethbridge are used throughout this project as controls against which to contrast the

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demographic and expenditure patterns of the CMA suburban municipalities. Red Deer is the provinces third largest city (2006 population of 82,772, a 22 per cent increase from 2001) and stands equidistant (160 km) between Calgary and Edmonton. Lethbridge is fourth largest (74, 637 in 2006, an increase of 11 per cent since 2001) and is located 222 km southeast of Calgary. The demographic data in this study were derived from the 2001 census of Canada. Expenditure data for our analysis were calculated for the 2003 fiscal year from the standardized statistical reports of each municipality for Alberta Municipal Affairs and reported under Municipal Profiles at (www.municipalaffairs.gov.ab.ca). The methodology employed in this preliminary analysis relies on a calculation of variance for the scores on the different variables considered, and standard values of significance for a rank order correlation are applied. It should be noted that the use of a per capita measure for service provision inflates the picture of what suburban communities actually do by including management, and central overhead and staffing, costs by function. Jim Sharpe (1981: 347) reminds us that the provision of specific functions is generally mandatory for all general purpose local governments of a type (towns, counties, etc.) and this is so in our case study area. In our last category of general government services, for example, there seems to be a fixed cost regardless of population note village spending yet Red Deer is the least costly per capita of all cities surveyed while Lethbridge would rank ninth among Edmontons 11 entries, somewhat on a par with towns in both city-regions. Such duplication means that, externalities being equal, the provision of local government services in a city-region governed by numerous municipalities is more costly than in a unitary system. This has already been established by contrasting the case of Edmonton with its companion metropolis of Calgary (Lightbody, 1999). Contrary claims by public choice theorists that overall costs savings result through a series of smaller unit efficiencies driven by competitive pressures are just not observable. This pattern revealed through using the 1993 expenditure and 1991 census data is affirmed by the data from 2003 and 2001, respectively, here. 3. Observed free rider behaviour in suburbs As a central city, Edmonton has become substantially different from its CMA; it would, of course, not be if its boundaries coincided with the urban region as is the case in Calgary. In Calgary, 98.8 per cent of all visible minorities, 96.3 per cent of foreign-born persons and 90.2 per cent of Aboriginals live therein. In Edmonton, where 90 per cent of all regional rental dwellings are in the core city, of necessity 95.3 per cent of visible minorities, 86.7 per cent of all foreign-born and

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74.2 per cent of Aboriginals live in the core. The numbers of Aboriginals in central cities would in both instances be higher were a major Indian Reservation not located within each of the CMA census boundaries. So, while these demographic data are generally similar, because of divergent city-regional government structure the distribution of policy consequences may be quite different. There is often less than subtle differentiation among communities. Whereas 95 per cent of all visible minorities dwell in Edmonton city, the number of visible minorities in the adjacent suburb of St. Albert is 4 per cent less than free-standing cities like Red Deer, 15 per cent less than that of Calgary, and 19 per cent less than in Edmonton. In St. Albert, the percentage of visible minorities actually declined from 6.57 to 5.82 over the 20 years from 1981. The average family income in St. Albert was $55,000; in Edmonton it was $41,000. Home ownership is 19 per cent higher in St. Albert than in Edmonton. The average income for St. Albert residents was 32 per cent greater than for the central city; 25 per cent higher in for residents in Edmontons neighbouring Strathcona County. Differences in the median for family incomes are more pronounced: St. Albert is 43 and Strathcona 41 per cent higher than that for the city-regions core. The census reveals that Edmonton citys population is 5 per cent more visible minorities (19.4) than the CMA average, a minimum of 17 percentage points greater than any of its suburbs except St. Albert (where it is only 15 percentage points higher). The city has 4 per cent more foreign-born residents than the CMA (21 vs. 17 per cent) and the rate is 12 percentage points greater than any suburb. Edmonton citys suburbs are akin, in visible minority and foreign-born residents, to more distant, free-standing, cities like Red Deer and Lethbridge. Overall, these results strongly suggest that the dependent suburban communities around core cities have created the luxury of being selective in choosing who may enjoy their quality of life by internal policy choices. With this background established it is now appropriate to present some preliminary findings from these two Canadian city-regions and to test how far they appear to validate (or not) the two hypotheses derived from Olsons analysis. Again, we assume that individual communities cannot exclude others in the region from the benefits of the public good that is provided for itself. 3.a. Once a smaller member obtains a collective good for free from the largest member, there is no incentive to provide that good at his own expense. Some questions become quite clear from even a cursory association of demographic variables with expenditures. The social escape to the suburbs has had policy implications for central cities, some of which like demands for racial equity in employment or

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culturally-aware policing, are obvious, direct and require limited expenditures, and will not be revealed through any significant differences in expenditure. Other policy areas are more revealing. For instance, urban immigrants use public transit: one survey found that recent immigrants are much more likely than the Canadian born to use public transit to commute to work, even after controlling for age, gender, income, distance to work, and distance between place of residence and the city centre (Heisz, Schellenberg, 2004: 187). The internationalizing of Canadian city-regions has increased demand for effective public transit, even if the suburbs of Edmonton and Calgary have not responded because they can relegate, through conscious design of housing policies, those groups requiring public transit to life in the core city. But even here, spending variations among communities is seldom revealed clearly in the crude reporting category of Transportation because it includes dedicated to roadways. When local governments can neither piggyback on core city services nor avert clientele responsibilities, they must spend more. Here, a straight comparison with the free-standing control cities of Lethbridge and Red Deer is informative. Per capita residential assessments place Lethbridge (6th) and Red Deer (5th) at the median of municipalities in the Edmonton CMA; both would only rank above the villages in the Calgary area. Their subsequent property taxation as a percentage of program spending is closer to the CMA city-region average than any other municipality, and is almost to the exact mean in Calgary (note the column RPT% -- Property tax as a percentage of program spending). In the Calgary city-region, only the central city has a total budget exceeding the CMA mean; in Edmonton, only the core city (and the rapidly urbanizing peri-urban county of Leduc) fare similarly. In service realms where suburban municipalities cannot free ride expenditures are higher. This is revealed plainly in areas such as the administrative costs of government (and social services) and less obviously in neighbourhood recreational facilities and activities. With protective services, free-standing Red Deer must commit a third more funding than any suburb of either city-region while Lethbridge spends more than twice that in the Calgary suburb of Airdrie and any Edmonton suburb. Suburbs bail out on city-regional implied obligations by simply excluding population segments requiring more specialized attention. The contrast with control cities is found not only in the gross numbers. In Alberta, cities which assume the responsibility of establishing a police service must create, staff and budget for a Police Commission (Police Act, R.S.A. (2000), sec. 27). No suburbs need do this as they contract with the federal RCMP which can cost its services across a wider area to realize economies of scale, access the national personnel base for trained officers, and have recourse to the city-

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centered regional operations of (in Edmonton) K-division for such basics as forensics specialists and communications technology. As a specific example of consequence, even though suburban St. Alberts population increased by 58 per cent, 1991-2001, the number of serving RCMP members for a population of 53,081 increased by only six. In 1991, the ratio of citizens to police officers was 717 to 1. By 2004 that ratio was 1080 to 1.19, and council ratified funding for a third officer to be available for all criminal activities from drugs through arson to murder only because Edmontons pushers are moving into [our] city (Lightbody, 2006: 415-46). In a broader sense, this action suggests that while public pressure may cause suburbs to emulate selected core city prestige programs on a scale they can afford, this choice only occurs when they have been unable to free ride. In these two city-regions, rank order analysis can link tantalizing bits of our discussion to correlations within the data. Positive correlations among municipalities between spending and selected demographic variables were only found to be significant (at the one per cent level) between residential assessment and family earnings (and average dwelling value), and between nonresidential assessment and spending on both protective services and land-use planning. At this level of significance, a negative correlation existed between percentage of home ownership and the provision of environmental (waste) services. At the five per cent level, budget dependence on residential assessment correlated positively with communities of persons with university degrees and negatively with an aboriginal presence. Higher non-residential assessment correlated with total budget size and the proportion directed to general governing as selected suburbs exploited their business and commercial sectors. The larger the total budget (per capita) the higher the amount spent on both protective and recreational services. 3.b. Where there are common interests in collective goods, there is a systematic tendency for exploitation of the great by the small. This is where social and economic difference among communities most comes into policy play. Autonomous suburbs in the more polycentric of the two city-regions exploit their inherent opportunities as free-riders and a systematic tendency for exploitation can be observed. The roots for this behaviour are demographic. For instance, the 2001 census reveals that 9.7 per cent of recent immigrants (and 11.7 per cent of Aboriginals) have settled in low-income core city neighbourhoods across Canadian CMAs, a rate twice again higher than the average of 4.4 per cent for all residents. Low-income neighbourhoods in 1980 had recent immigrants as 9.9 per

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cent of their population but twenty years later the number had doubled to 19.8 per cent. These cultural islands provide networks for those who speak another language at home, are not university educated, and younger. There are consequences: Negative effects come from increased strains on urban infrastructure and increased use of health services, income support and other social programs (McDonald, 2004: 91, 82). Autonomous suburbs in a polycentric city-region, however, experience no demand for wider-area public services that do not specifically fit with their own residential needs and they are mostly isolated from the costs of accommodating immigrants. The particular requirements of newcomers to Canada are both well documented and immediately the policy responsibility of cityregions (Lightbody, 2006: 23-40). For but one example, newcomers typically suffer an income penalty as a consequence of inadequate language skills, non-recognition of credentials earned in origin countries, and the genteel practice of discrimination. During an adjustment period new Canadian residents also require a measure of employment support and access to supportive social services typically provided exclusively by core cities. Grant and Sweetman summarize the situation in these terms: immigrants, on average, contribute less in taxes and receive slightly greater public transfers than the Canadian born (2004: 20). Because suburbs erect barriers to settlement through their public policies in realms such as housing, consciously or unintended these communities have separated themselves socially and economically from meeting their city-regional policy responsibilities. Outrider councils can provide for exclusivity only because core cities alone pick up the tab to meet city-regional need. One consequence in the realm of social services in this case study is that overnight sanctuary for battered spouses is only available through central city agencies; and, it is only core cities which provide Youth Emergency Shelters (or YES). Specifically for public transportation (not roadways), the control cities must spend twice more than any urban suburb in either cityregion because they must provide transit, even as all five urbanizing counties make transportation their largest budget priority and do spend it on roads. Transit expenditures present the most obvious evidence of free rider behaviour. None of Calgarys and only Edmontons two largest urban satellites budget for public transit. Even where two of Edmontons suburban cities provide a dash of transit service, it is highly specialized. Of the total workforce in St. Albert, for instance, only 3.9 per cent take transit to work (compared to 11.4 per cent in Edmonton), and almost 90 per cent of the kilometers traveled occur between 6 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. But, the freestanding control cities do not have that crutch.

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Edmonton city has the lowest percentage of home ownership (59.4) in the region, 27 percentage points lower than its suburban fringe, and there are consequences. All of its suburbs have at least a 20 per cent higher rate of home owners than a free-standing city like Red Deer. Every suburb has higher average family incomes than Edmonton except the villages and Leduc County. St. Albert and Strathcona are fully a third higher. The control city of Red Deer had income levels similar to the core city, while Lethbridge, on average income, stood more closely to Edmontons villages. In Calgary, 97.6 per cent, and in Edmonton, 90 per cent, of all rental dwellings in the CMA are to be found in the central cities. In sharp contrast with Edmonton city, 87.8 per cent of residents in suburban St. Albert were home owners, and Strathcona County -- centered on its city-sized (but unincorporated) ritzy bourgeois hamlet of Sherwood Park -- boasted 92.3 per cent. Suburban housing policies thus drive their councils overall budget choices. For fire and police protection, all suburbs in both the Calgary and Edmonton CMAs spent less per capita than the control cities, and all urban suburbs less on transportation (although the peri-urban rurals spent more to build and maintain county roads). Both controls ranked at the median for community social service expenditures and administrative overhead appeared to drive the very basic town and village budgets. In the governmentally polycentric Edmonton city-region, the few statistically significant correlations that were found revealed few surprises. For instance, residential assessment was positively correlated (at the one per cent level) with family income, dwelling values and university degree holders. On the other hand, larger (per capita) municipal budgets positively correlated with average dwelling values and spending on general government and protective services while, at the five per cent level, home ownership correlated positively with the budget percentage based on residential property, and negatively with general government spending. In short, bigger homes with higher income earners are associated with higher assessment, a larger budget and elevated costs in protective services (but still at a per capita level half that of either central city). But, when a municipality has an imbalance in the residential/commercial-industrial assessment ratio and home owners carry the freight, they may accept larger budgets but expect less administrative overhead. At the one per cent significance level, a negative correlation existed between average dwelling value and recreation expenditures as residents resorted to private gyms and spas, or drove into the central city for arenas. Nonresidential assessment correlated with expenditures on planning and bigger budgets negatively with environmental (waste) spending. Average dwelling values were also positively associated at the five per cent level with transportation

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spending (usually for county roads). Finally, communities with a higher visible minority presence budgeted more for protective services. 3.c. Suburban style becomes substance in policy expenditures: The premise of the Canadian suburb life lies in social distinction from central city life. City-regional urban settlement patterns in this case study reflect a spatial separation, on the basis of local government boundaries, of social and economic communities within city-regions. The widely proclaimed suburban quality of life, distinct from and presumably superior to that of central cities, is sustained by social and economic stratification. These smaller units of governing promote exclusion and selfishness with the point being that autonomous municipal governing imbeds policy style, a freedom to design public policies in due alignment with electors expectations. Since the numbers analyzed reveal few correlations and aggregate suburban spending in eight broad budget categories does not vary significantly from core cities, then real differences in policy are buried. In practical terms, what this means is that life-style divergence prevails. Most obvious is the absence of public transit, as previously noted, in direct acknowledgment of the two car family benchmark. In preventive social service, for another example, meals on wheels substitutes for spousal abuse programs; in recreation, family swim facilities and not indoor soccer domes with a regional clientele; in culture, vanity community theatre projects rather than commitments to symphony, opera, major theatre; and in transportation, residential streets, lanes and fixtures, and not arterials. Such as it is, the methodological problem here is generally consistent with results from a study by Abizadeh and Gray who, after analyzing 26 years of provincial spending increases in ten provinces with 30 different governments from seven different political parties, reported discovering no statistically significant impact correlating with the ideology of the many different parties in power. However, they do concede that the aggregate data obscured policy style differentials where leftists spent on visible social programs and public works while parties of the right spent on contracting out of services and liberal grants to business (1992: 520). There is other evidence. The basic budget cost for social services per municipality appeared to be about $25 per capita but is largely spent on the administration of provincial shared-cost programs. Central cities have each developed more than three dozen preventive programs but even the largest suburbs have less than half that: as noted, their agencies provide no overnight sanctuary for battered spouses, no emergency support for young persons in need, no comprehensive support for immigrants to Canada. In choices made, for control cities the budget for environmental (waste) in Lethbridge is 26 per cent more costly than the Calgary CMA

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mean, 61 per cent higher than Edmontons. Red Deer, however, registers slightly below the mean and median for Edmonton and 26 per cent below all communities but Rocky View MD in Calgary. In recreation, Lethbridge would rank seventh if in the Edmonton CMA and its spending was 63 per cent above the Calgary mean. Red Deer would rank fourth in Edmonton (after the villages, Strathcona County and two suburban cities) and spent 13 per cent more than the Edmonton CMA mean, 79 per cent more than Calgarys. The Edmonton case reveals the more costly choices that its suburbs have taken by emulating city recreation facilities and programs without any benefit from economies of scale. In this expenditure category, the core city ranks eighth of the 11 cases and the five most urbanized suburbs spent up to 40 per cent more per capita, averaging a 24 per cent higher per capita cost. In short, these suburbs on average spent eight per cent more than Red Deer, 19 per cent more than Lethbridge. . 4. Concluding assessment (and sidebar observation) To the extent that suburban councils act to exclude newcomers (and other unacceptable categories of residents) and thus absent themselves from any commitment to contribute service for such social categories, they are free riders on the city-regional policy omnibus and the budget of the regions central city. While the free rider foundation is one of exclusion, that is, pay only for what you consume and to hell with the others, its kissin cousin is the free lunch where electors expect to receive something for nothing. Municipalities behaving as free riders should be distinguished from this small stratum of electors who seek a free lunch from state expenditures. Such demands emerged most dramatically in the USA in the aftermath of tax limitation initiatives when citizens, asked why and how to reconcile reducing taxes while sustaining services through increased efficiency, could choose from among three possible paths. For the first two of these, efficiency could mean either increased service with constant revenue or constant service with reduced revenues. But, the belief that one deserves a free lunch from civil society presents a third and more extreme interpretation of efficiency with which governments are faced. This is the belief that services may be increased or maintained while taxes are substantially reduced (Simonsen, Robbins, 2000: 52) or the free lunch paradox. While free lunch claims can constitute a populist foundation of stump rhetoric in local elections, such sugar-plum beliefs are not found much more readily than hens teeth in the Canadian municipal political culture. Here, tax cuts mean service cuts and service maintenance with tax cuts has meant user fees. Even south of the border, when citizens were actually surveyed and asked to participate in budgetary reallocations, the free lunchers were found to constitute a distinct

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minority under ten per cent. Further, more highly educated citizens, such as those found in Canadian suburban cities, have, like their American counterparts, actually favoured increased spending for services where the benefits may be more obscure, less well understood, and less immediate, such as planning functions, park maintenance, recreation, and performing arts (Simonsen, Robbins, 2000: 68-70). A final question arising from the principal hypotheses and relevant to Albertas two city-regions which both operate without any area-wide government is this: does the existence of a second tier authority much minimize the free rider phenomenon? Further research from British Columbia (and its Greater Vancouver Regional District, or GVRD, over-arching 22 lower mainland municipalities) may yield lessons for the polycentric Alberta regions. It is of note that total per capita spending would rank two free-standing control cities of Kamloops and Prince George as third and tenth, respectively, were they located within the GVRD aegis. Both would be above that CMA mean which potentially reveals a GVRD impact in reducing some front line municipal budgets. In BC, one attempt to correct for the free rider phenomenon occurred on the lower mainland where, in 1998, the provincial government created the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority as an operating arm of the GVRD. Its mandate was to assume responsibility for specific transportation and related services principally transit. To finance the municipal share of new costs purportedly for the provision of the collective good of regional transit this body proposed a tax directly on private vehicles in late 2000: The proposed levy generated widespread public opposition from many different sectors and was ultimately abandoned when the province refused to collect the new tax (Smith and Stewart 2005: 36). For many reasons, the highly unpopular NDP government was overwhelmingly defeated in 2001. Nonetheless, the new Liberal government approved a 10 year transit plan with costs of $3.9 billion in 2004. While Smith and Stewart attribute the public economy fiasco in transportation finance surrounding a new GVTA tax (on gasoline within the GVRD boundaries) to the ongoing regional accountability gap between citizens and GVTA officials chosen through indirect election, the central problem is really ideological. It is much better understood as a gap between operation of the most private of goods the carand the collective need of a regional community for provision of public transit. Still, in BC, when Transportation expenditures for municipalities are examined comparatively, what is revealed is that the two control cities would rank second and third (after West Vancouver) were they in the Vancouver CMA. This is because they must themselves provide transit service which is now a regional

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