Saturday, May 31, 2014

Solution 8: Specialized Municipality (Part 1)

Still with me?  Good.  The best is yet to come...

The Regional Municipality of Grande Prairie.  Nice ring to it eh?

The final solution I'll be looking at is becoming a specialized municipality.  Becoming a specialized municipality would mean that all 6 municipalities (and perhaps part of the MD as well) would shed their corporate identities and create a single unit.  The new Council would be formed with representatives from the whole area.

Let's look at how this could be a solution to each of problems I've listed:

Problem 1: Inequalities in who pays for services.

Wouldn't exist anymore.  All linear and M&E revenues would now flow to the new municipality to benefit all.  Everyone would be paying tax rates that reflected the services they have access to.  We wouldn't have to compete for provincial grants against one another.  Everyone would be contributing equally to the costs of the area.  Plain and simple.

Problem 2: Poor Regional Planning Decisions

Would be much better.  Without the drive to get as much development as you can so that the other guy doesn't get it, you can make much more rational planning decisions.  It would be in everyone's interest to have a coherent regional plan which identifies the best places to develop various land uses.

Problem 3: Inefficient Service Delivery

Would be greatly improved.  One Fire Department.  One Development Department.  One GIS department.  And so on.  Multiple sets of regulations condensed into one.  One set of bylaws to follow.  And service efficiencies would in the long-run lead to cost savings for everyone. 

Problem 4: An unequal playing field for development.

The playing field has been erased.  Done.

Other benefits:

Everyone would have a say in how the region grows

Everyone would have a vote in matters that concern them.  Right now I have no vote on campground funding or development in Clairmont, even though they directly affect my life.  Someone living in Whispering Ridge may own a business in downtown GP but is not able to vote in people who would support their views on downtown development.  A specialized municipality would correct that.

Economic Development

Local governments should be actively working together on attracting businesses to the region.  However, right now there is competition between municipalities to get development to reduce the tax burden on residents.  Because of this, it's not in each municipality's interest to work together on economic development, as we each want to grab the biggest piece of the pie.  Being one municipality would change that. 

Other efficiencies

A spin-off of amalgamation would be that you wouldn't necessarily need to have the Public and Peace Wapiti school boards.  If they were to combine, there could be efficiencies found there too.  For example, does it make sense to bus students living in Wedgewood across town to PWA when they could go to a public high school on the south end?

Essentially, a specialized municipality would align local governance with how people are actually living their lives.

Wow Rory...that sounds perfect!  Why isn't everyone screaming for amalgamation??

Because, it's not perfect.


Head on over to my next post to see what the challenges are and how I feel they could be overcome.

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