Go West To Find Best Municipal Accountability

In a recent article written for the Vancouver Sun, David Seymour, Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and author of the Local Government Performance Index in 2009 (www.fcpp.org) suggests that if you are looking for the highest local government accountability it appears to be in the western Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. He states that "in my review of 75 municipalities across Canada, 6 out of the top 10 were from British Columbia (the rest were from Alberta)."

He points out that accountability and transparency are important principles for local governments, especially when you consider that municipalities are economically significant in Canada. Seymour writes that "taken together, Canada's municipalities represent a roughly $65 billion-per-year industry, or about $1 of every $20 in GDP. He goes on to cite that "at 5 per cent of GDP, a 20 per cent increase in the productivity of municipal government would add a full percentage point to the national wealth."

It also appears that from his observations and research, Seymour concludes that "perhaps the biggest difference between BC municipalities and others...is the quality of reporting that citizens can expect when it comes to finance and service performance...When it comes to questions of providing disclosure on the value of capital assets, whether those values are depreciated according to best practice asset management, definitions are given for the line items that money is spent on or those expenditure areas are associated with measured performance compared to numerical targets, municipal reporting is the best in the West."

He goes on to say that, as with other governments, municipal government is a "natural monopoly" since it is the single source of services. He suggests that "consumers, the people who pay taxes and user fees and use roads, garbage collection and recreational services, don't have the same level of choice in who provides these essential services as they would in a competitive market." Therefore, operating in this context makes it even more of an imperative, Seymour argues, for municipalities to "help residents understand what services are being provided and at what cost, with numerical performance targets and actual performance achievements that are linked to areas of expenditure."

I encourage you to visit the website noted above for more information and detail about the Seymour report.