We have just had our first look at the Capital Integrated Services and Governance Initiative Report that was not released to the public until August 23rd even though it was completed in March this year.
In the executive summary we see a couple of key overarching themes. First, “We are all citizens of both the local community and the region.” Second, “The CRD is an important institution. It does a good job on some things and has a harder time with others. Getting to ‘yes’ on big contentious issues is a problem”.
It is these two themes that need to be explored in depth. The report does recommend establishing a framework to discuss service integration and governance issues. This is exactly what I and others have been talking about under the heading Metro Victoria. Rather than get into a shouting match over amalgamation we must start a respectful conversation that begins with a review of our regional governance structure, the CRD.
The report gives a good summary of what integrated services are but does not attempt to consider options such as a directly elected regional government. Our conversation starts with the premise that a directly elected Metro Victoria board would replace the current CRD board with the same basic responsibilities. Regional governments need the tools to do the jobs they are given. The current CRD structure does hold responsibility for regional services but, as has been clearly demonstrated during the sewage treatment debate, has a difficult time finding consensus especially when it’s authority was weakened by not allowing the CRD to choose a site. This system has basically been in place since the 1960’s. With regional decisions becoming ever more complex and covering significantly larger populations, it must be time to evolve into a directly elected body. In fact, this recommendation can be found on page 107 in Section 4.0.
Using the data from the report for police, fire, parks and recreation, and administration services we can see that if all these services were under one roof the total per capita costs would be about $940 and these costs would be further reduced after consolidation efficiencies were realized. Clearly some municipal tax payers would benefit and some would begin to pay their fair share.
However, under a Metro Victoria model the efficiencies could be realized. For example if Metro Vic provided admin services such as payroll and accounts payable functions, individual municipalities could contract with Metro Vic and save with further cost savings as more joined the system. If Metro Vic was in the business of providing such services they would be sure to offer competitive value to attract customers.
My conclusion is that this report offers an opportunity to dig into our regional government structure and get to reforms that would benefit the regional taxpayer as well as clarifying roles and neglected responsibilities related to regional issues such as transportation planning.