Part II - Intergovernmental Relations

Gone are the days when governments could act in isolation. The relationships between governments are complex but necessary. There must be even closer and more effective ties between local and other governments. The only way to achieve these closer ties is to renounce the "master-servant" relationship that has coloured the relationships. It is no longer acceptable for local government to be considered as a necessary, although minor relative in the family of government. Local government must be recognized as being an equal partner in the family of Canadian government; a partner in providing services and a partner in the discussions which lead to the provision of those services.

2.1
AS THE BASIS FOR RELATIONS BETWEEN LOCAL AND SENIOR LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT MUST BE RECOGNIZED AS A FULL AND EQUAL PARTNER IN THE SYSTEM OF CANADIAN GOVERNMENT.

Three things are needed to realize this objective:
  • conformity by other governments to local decisions;
  • a commitment by all governments that they will ensure that their actions in one field reinforce and not undermine the actions of other governments and,
  • a partnership in meeting shared government responsibilities.

CONFORMITY TO LOCAL DECISIONS

Local governments have been given certain responsibilities to fulfill by the Provincial government. Quite simply, these responsibilities are delegated because local government is the best way to provide these services and the public is expected to conform to the decisions of local government. So too should the senior levels of government.

A basic premise of a "partnership" among governments is that:

2.2
GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES AND AGENCIES MUST COMPLY WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY IN AREAS OF LOCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THEY SHOULD NOT UNDERMINE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BY-LAWS OR PROGRAMS.

In a Province as large and diverse as B.C., it must be recognized that local needs vary and that the scope of each individual local government to respond to those needs must not be hindered. Flexibility and respect for the diversity of local government goes hand in hand with the basic respect for its decisions.

2.3
OTHER ORDERS OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND REGULATIONS THAT AFFECT LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD RESPECT THE VARYING NEEDS AND CONDITIONS OF DIFFERENT AREAS OF THE PROVINCE.

COORDINATION AND COOPERATION

It is not enough just to respect local government actions. The reason for existence of all orders of government is to serve the same people, albeit in different ways and frequently for different purposes. The full benefits of government action can only be realized if these actions complement and support one another. The only way that this can be achieved is through full inter-governmental coordination and cooperation.

2.4
GOVERNMENTS SHOULD BE COMMITTED TO CONSULTATION AND COORDINATION OF THEIR ACTIONS TO SERVE THE PUBLIC.

One of the best ways to ensure this happens is to ensure that government at all orders are working together. They should be doing things that assist one another and thereby reinforce their actions and increase the benefits to the public. With particular reference to local government the:

2.5
OTHER ORDERS OF GOVERNMENT SHOULD ESTABLISH POLICIES AND PROGRAMS THAT SUPPORT LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

Basic to our system of government is that local needs are best met at the local level. However, when a senior government has a responsibility to meet certain local needs, local government should be included in the process - local government has considerable experience and local knowledge to offer to the other orders of government.

2.6
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN THE DEVELOPMENT AND DELIVERY OF THE PROGRAMS OF OTHER ORDERS OF GOVERNMENT WHICH ARE DESIGNED TO MEET LOCAL NEEDS.

Local responsibilities and priorities have changed markedly in the last decade and so have the responsibility and priorities of senior governments. This change is natural but the impacts of unilateral changes in other government policies and programs do not always benefit local government. The process of managing changes in government responsibilities and priorities must be improved by ensuring that:

2.7
OTHER ORDERS OF GOVERNMENT SHOULD GIVE ADEQUATE NOTICE AND SHOULD CONSULT ON LEGISLATION OR OTHER CHANGES THAT WOULD AFFECT LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

The consultation process should include guaranteed:
  • notice to local government of the intention to establish, change or terminate a policy or program;
  • assessment of the impact of the action on local government;
  • local involvement in developing policies; and,
  • financial compensation where the changes impose a new cost burden on local government, particularly where operating costs must be assumed by local government.

SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES

The heart of any true partnership is the frank and frequent discussion on all aspects of what the partnership is trying to deliver. When governments share the responsibility for delivering a service they have an obligation to the public to work together. Shared responsibilities demand more than just cooperation and coordination - they demand a firm and lasting commitment. A commitment to confer with local government on any matter that affects it would be a major step forward in inter-governmental relations. On the basis of that commitment could be built an ongoing process on consultation, shared financing and joint decision-making which will benefit all of our citizens.

2.8
GOVERNMENTS SHOULD BE COMMITTED TO CONSULTATION AND JOINT DECISION-MAKING WHENEVER THEY HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES WITHIN THE SAME AREA OF JURISDICTION.

Local government cannot be expected to fund the shared responsibility of other orders of government exclusively from local sources. Where there is a sharing of responsibilities between governments it is natural that there be a sharing of the financial obligations. If a shared responsibility between a senior government and local government can be established, flexible sharing formulae should be developed which recognize each government's level of involvement. Two situations arise where financial sharing by another government at the local level is essential:
  • when another government determines exclusively the local standards to be met. In this case:
2.9
PROGRAMS THAT ARE EXCLUSIVELY DETERMINED BY ANOTHER GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE FINANCED BY THAT GOVERNMENT FROM THEIR REVENUE SOURCES.
  • where another government prescribes a standard that over-rides local priorities and imposes an added cost burden on local government. In this case:
2.10
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE SHOULD BE PROVIDED TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS BY OTHER ORDERS OF GOVERNMENTS WHEN THEIR POLICIES OVER-RIDE LOCAL PRIORITIES OR IMPOSE AN ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL BURDEN ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THAT ASSISTANCE SHOULD EQUATE TO THE ADDED COST BURDEN.

Situations do arise within the area of shared responsibilities where the wider interest must over-ride local autonomy. However, such situations should be limited and must be clearly defined:

2.11
THE ABILITY OF OTHER ORDERS OF GOVERNMENT TO OVER-RIDE LOCAL GOVERNMENT DECISIONS MUST BE ESTABLISHED BY LEGISLATION AND MUST BE CLEARLY LIMITED TO THOSE MATTERS THAT WOULD SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECT A PROVINCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND BE SUBJECT TO APPEAL.

The need for an appeal process recognizes that governments will not always agree on what is the public interest. However, all to often local government is being challenged by other governments through the Courts to defend its actions. Differences of opinion about the public interest should rarely be referred to the Courts - they should be resolved by those elected to determine the public interest.

2.12
CONFLICTS ON MATTERS OF PUBLIC POLICY BETWEEN ORDERS OF GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE SETTLED BY NEGOTIATION.

Negotiation and the spirit of cooperation must underlie this and all approaches to inter-governmental relations.

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