It must be emphasized that local government is for local choice and each municipality should reflect the individual needs of their local citizens whether they are urban or rural. Rather than restructure to change boundaries and create an “institutionalized and fixed space” by way of amalgamation, more focus should be on policy issues that affect the “virtual region,” allowing local governments to be innovative through use of experimentation and to co-operate together supporting a bottom up approach of community strengthening.
This alternative form of restructuring focuses more on the importance of governance, not government, and entails establishing goals created by the community and setting policies to achieve these goals.
It emphasizes collaboration and voluntary agreements built around the community rather than having it forced down upon the community, moving away from the focus of power. Emphasis is placed on empowering the community by bringing them into the regional decision-making.
It focuses on processes rather than structure, through means of strategic planning, resolving conflict, while building consensus between municipal bodies and within the community. It builds trust.
There is to be an acceptance that boundaries are open and enables the ability to incorporate various stakeholders to help identify, address, as well as govern policy issues whether it be fire, economic development or recreational amenities. In essence, all those programs that we share within a regional scope.
Using the tools of collaboration and partnerships, various community stakeholders such as citizens, businesses, local community groups and volunteers, who will be the effected through the restructuring effort, will be given the opportunity not only of empowerment through use of public participation, but also given more responsibility in the creation of strong and positive communities. These efforts will most certainly be achieved through use of inter-municipal agreements rather than a top down approach such as amalgamation.
Although the Municipal Government Act may acknowledge a few forms of restructuring, municipalities have the option to create effective governance through “new regionalism,” which will address the needs that effect all of us on from a regional perspective while still maintaining the values of our respective local communities.
Councillor – West Hants Municipality