Good Democratic Governance at the Municipal Level in Canada: The Halifax Regional Municipality and Governance Structure Reform
Davidson, Matthew J. M.
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Canada is a predominantly urbanized and urbanizing country, with consistent expansion in recent decades in its major cities‘ populations and geographic size. Major cities have been advancing claims for, or have already been granted by their provincial governments, greater autonomy in the responsibilities assigned to them under provincial legislation. Urban municipalities‘ legislative frameworks are gradually becoming more permissive, making urban governments and governance structures a highly relevant topic, particularly given the trend of amalgamation that occurred in some major cities in the 1990s which significantly altered municipal governance structures. The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), amalgamated in 1996, has commenced a mandatory Governance and District Boundary Review Process to be completed by the end of 2010. The thesis develops a necessarily flexible set of criteria of good democratic governance for the municipal level through consulting the literature on urban governance in Canada and the trends that characterize the experience and consequences of municipal restructuring, particularly amalgamation. A case study of the HRM‘s unique context and governance structure challenges results in the following reform recommendations: should the HRM seek greater effectiveness in decision making and clearer lines of accountability, regional council should be significantly reduced in size, community councils should be granted greater formal authority to set rates and make decisions beyond land-use issues, and the formal executive power of the office of the mayor should be significantly strengthened.