The Official Publication of AMCTO – The Municipal Experts
Municipal Management & Leadership
The Three Pillars of Leadership Good leadership is a function of competencies, character and commitment to doing the hard work
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FEATURES Three Pillars 8 The of Leadership Good leadership is a function of competencies, character and commitment to doing the hard work
Nations 12 First and Community
DEPARTMENTS Message 3 President’s Board Governance
Recommendations By Stephane Palmateer, AMCT
5 Viewpoint An Olympic Effort
By Andy Koopmans, CPA, CMO, CMA
Engagement for Large Scale Projects Forward 15 City Guelph focuses on innovation
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as it works to redefine open municipal government
Voting and 18 Internet Voter Turnout Does adoption of the voting reform in Ontario municipal elections positively affect voter participation?
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PRESID ENT’S ME SSAGE
2016–17 AMCTO Board of Directors Stephane Palmateer, AMCT President City of Timmins Christopher Wray, AMCT Immediate Past President Municipality of Wawa Yvonne L. Robert, CMO, AMCT Vice President / Director at Large Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley John Hannam, CMO Director at Large City of Thunder Bay Marsha Paley, CMO Director at Large Municipality of North Middlesex Robert H.A. Tremblay, CMO, Dipl.M.A. Director at Large Municipality of Meaford Michelle M. Casavecchia-Somers, CMO Zone 1 Board Director Township of Malahide Pamela Fettes, CMO, Dipl.M.A. Zone 2 Board Director Township of Clearview Angela Morgan, CMO Zone 3 Board Director City of Burlington
Board Governance Recommendations
uring my last article, I spoke about the mentoring program established by AMCTO and, in my opinion, I cannot overstate the importance of such a program. Personally, I believe that this program will help aid AMCTO and our members and municipalities to recruit and retain the future generation of municipal professionals. A formal mentoring program sends the right message to new and young people looking to enter the workforce; as well, it sends
By Stephane Palmateer, AMCT, President, AMCTO
the same message to any professionals already working in the private sectors who may be looking to change professions. The message we are conveying is that we care about the future development of the newest employees to our sector, and that we want to ensure that they get started in the right direction. I also want to take this time to congratulate all the mentors and mentees who applied to the program. It was unfortunate that we were not able to match everyone who applied with a mentor;
“My whirlwind tour as AMCTO president got off to an amazing start this past June at the AGM and Annual Conference.”
Stephen M.A. Huycke Zone 4 Board Director Town of Richmond Hill Elana Arthurs, CMO Zone 5 Board Director Township of Cavan Monaghan Dean Sauriol, CMO, Dipl.M.M. Zone 6 Board Director Township of Laurentian Valley
Carol O. Trainor, AMCT Zone 7 Board Director Township of St. Joseph Amy Vickery-Menard, CMO Zone 8 Board Director Township of Evanturel
P R E S I D E N T ’ S M ESSAGE
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Mentoring programs can help young people entering the workforce as well as professionals who may be looking to change professions
having said that, we did exceed our expectation of matching six mentor/mentee relationships with a total of eight matches. As a successful mentor in the program, I am looking forward to what this program will offer me and my mentee moving forward.
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My whirlwind tour as AMCTO president got off to an amazing start this past June at the AGM and Annual Conference. I have also represented the association at a couple of our sister associations’ annual conferences, and as I write this article, I am looking forward to attending many of the fall zone meetings that will be well underway by the time you read this. Recently, the AMCTO Board met in my hometown of Timmins, and although we had some fun, we also got down to business. One area that we discussed and decided that we should reconsider was our approach to the Board Governance Recommendations. Specifically, we revisited a few of the recommendations and I am happy to report that the Board of Directors approved moving forward in a couple of key areas that were important to AMCTO members. Although I am only summarizing the Board’s decision, we have committed to revisiting the following two key priority areas: The first – election of the vice president; and the second – allowing zones to elect their zone representative and local zone executives using electronic methods. We will be receiving recommendations on these areas in the coming months. If all goes well, we are aiming to have something available for ratification at the 2017 annual general meeting in Huntsville. Although there were many recommendations included in the Board Governance report and we requested members’ input earlier this year, it is never too late to voice your opinions. If there is something else regarding the Board Governance review and recommendations, please reach out. I would like to encourage every member to become involved with the association. Please reach out to your zone member on the board, your local zone executive or myself. Please remember that we are volunteers trying to do the best we can for you, our members. I would like to thank all of our members for your valued input and open, honest advice. Your contribution to the association is what has made AMCTO so successful. I am looking forward to seeing all of you (or as many as I can) during the fall zone meeting sessions.
VIEW P OI N T
AMCTO Staff Andy Koopmans, CPA, CMA, CMO Executive Director Craig Wellington Director, Programs & Services Rick Johal Director, Member & Sector Relations Roger Ramkissoon, CPA, CGA Manager, Finance & Administration Anubha Meta, Ph.D. Manager, Education & PD Program Development Brenda Armstrong Johnston Specialist, Membership Services Michelle Sampson Executive Assistant Kathleen Barrett Coordinator, Communications & Marketing Jeanne Moon Coordinator, Programs & Services Rosita Bourke Coordinator, Programs & Services Manjit Badh Coordinator, Programs & Services Eric Muller Policy Advisor Tawanda Chirenda Coordinator, Accreditation
An Olympic Effort
n the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.” I don’t think that I am alone in thinking that the value of these words – the Olympic Athletes’ Oath – was more than a little diminished by the events that transpired in the days and weeks prior to the start of the 2016
By Andy Koopmans, CPA, CMA, CMO Executive Director, AMCTO
Summer Olympics and continued to play out throughout the Games. Sadly, it was abundantly clear that some athletes, and indeed some countries, had no intention of fulfilling the promise to respect and abide by the rules put in place to ensure fair competition. Winning, regardless of what it might cost, became more important than competing fairly and cleanly. I think that what bothers me the most about this Olympic scandal was the fact that the Games are built on a
“As municipal professionals, we have all been faced with situations where our commitment to professionalism and/or political neutrality has been challenged.”
Jane Chevannes Administrative Assistant, Programs & Services
V I E WP O I N T
Acting in accordance with AMCTO’s Code of Ethics and Values is an achievement worthy of a gold medal
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foundation of sportsmanship and the “glory of sport.” I’m well aware that there have been (and will likely continue to be) similar scandals in other sporting events, but none of these events have a similar oath sworn by one athlete on behalf of all. The fact that some athletes were presumably comfortable with blatantly disregarding the principles of the Athletes’ Oath is something that I find difficult to accept. In my mind, it’s not enough to just be aware of the words, you need to take them to heart and live by them. In its own way, the same can be said about AMCTO’s Code of Ethics and Values. As municipal professionals, our members must not only be aware of what is contained within the Code, they must also be committed to abiding by it. And while all aspects of the Code are important, in my opinion the provisions around maintaining professionalism, integrity and trust and maintaining political neutrality are paramount. There is little doubt in my mind that, as municipal professionals, we have all been faced with situations where
our commitment to professionalism and/or political neutrality has been challenged. In the politicized and very public environment in which we work, the recommendations and advice that we need to provide as qualified professionals are not always politically or publicly favoured. And while it may be tempting to take the easier path and mold our recommendations and advice so that they are more favourably received, doing so is a disservice to the municipal profession. As professionals, it is incumbent on each of us to ensure that our actions on a daily basis reflect the high standards that are expected of municipal professionals and AMCTO members. I don’t for a moment think that any of you are not living up to these standards but I do think that we need to continue working on demonstrating to our politicians and the public that we act with integrity and professionalism every day. Acting in accordance with AMCTO’s Code of Ethics and Values may not exactly be “for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams,” but it is still a gold-medal worthy achievement.
CA LL FO R SUB M IS S IONS Share your story and contribute to the Municipal Monitor AMCTO is inviting submissions of original, unpublished articles for publication in future editions of the Municipal Monitor. AMCTO’s mandate is to promote excellence in municipal management and administration. We are looking for thought-provoking articles featuring innovative ideas and practical solutions that advance the knowledge and management capacity of Ontario’s municipal sector. Themes we would like to see covered include: • Strategic leadership • Staff and operational management • The staff/council dynamic • Public engagement • Sustainability • Infrastructure • Financial management • Performance management • Public-private partnerships • Service delivery If your municipality has developed an innovative initiative that has resulted in significant improvements in organizational processes or service delivery, and is replicable in other jurisdictions, please let us know so we can share your story. For more information or to submit an article outline, please email email@example.com.
THE THREE PILLARS O F LEADERSHIP Good leadership is a function of competencies, character and commitment to doing the hard work By Gerard Seijts, Ivey School of Business
oe Fontana, the former mayor of London, Ont., showed poor judgement when he forged a document to use government money to pay for part of his son’s wedding in 2005, while serving as a federal Liberal cabinet minister. This led to a conviction for fraud in 2014, when Fontana was sentenced to four months of house arrest, followed by 18 months of probation. The fraud in question saved Fontana less than $2,000, while destroying a reputation built over decades of public service. It also subjected his family to years of pain in the media spotlight. As a result, Fontana is a prime example of the personal costs often associated with showing poor judgement. But it is important to note that you don’t have to break the rules to be a bad leader. After all, it takes a lot more than simply following the law to be good at job of leadership. Indeed, with all due respect to Senator Mike Duffy, the former political journalist was not vindicated when acquitted earlier this year on 31 criminal charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to his expenses. While found not guilty of legal wrongdoing, Duffy still clearly failed Canadians by allowing others to convince him it was okay to creatively 8
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milk the Senate’s tax-funded expense system. According to the court, Duffy technically did nothing wrong. But like Fontana, he still showed poor judgment as a leader and many Canadians will now forever question his ethics and character. Plenty of good people, of course, let themselves believe it is somehow okay to use technicalities or loopholes to break principles that sit behind rules, especially when they think they can get away with it or someone else says they can get away with it. But there is no strength in numbers in this case. And if you chat with Andrew Fastow, he’ll tell you this is a problem of character that is fast approaching epidemic proportions. He sees principle breaking everywhere – in business and politics. And as the former chief financial officer of Enron, he knows what he is talking about. Good judgment is required to put organizations on a solid footing because it instills trust in stakeholders. It also pays reputational dividends. Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi, for example, received widespread praise (and was even nicknamed “Superman”) for the frank and highly visible way that he handled the city’s devastating flood in 2013. Nenshi’s
“It’s always tempting for individuals to say that they don’t have time for reflection. We are always busy. But the opposite is true – leaders don’t have the luxury of failing to reflect.”
COV E R STO RY calm daily briefings, along with his reassuring presence in the city’s Emergency Operations Centre, not only helped Calgary get through the disaster – it defined his reputation as a good leader.
The importance of character Good leadership is a function of competencies, character and commitment to doing the hard work of leadership. But even though it has long been known to be a foundational element of leadership effectiveness, character has traditionally received the least attention in research as well as day-to-day practices. This is an issue because a shortfall in one of the three pillars of good leadership will undermine the others. And that will ultimately lead to performance problems for leaders and their organizations, not to mention all the related stakeholders, including the public interest. At the Ivey Business School, we therefore contend that organizations need to start paying as much attention to character as they do to competencies.
“A shortfall in one of the three pillars of good leadership will undermine the others.” At Ivey, our interest in character was sparked by the 2008 financial crisis, which led me to start a research program on leadership and character with my colleagues Mary Crossan and Jeffrey Gandz. In our work with senior leaders from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, we found – unsurprisingly – that character matters. In fact, we found it matters a lot. The leaders we talked to in our research had little difficulty concluding that character flaws played a major role in the lead-up to the financial crisis. They talked about how the lack of good character contributed to organizational demise in the not-for-profit sector. They agreed that poor judgment on the part of city leaders had negative affects on the perception of municipal politics. But there was no consistent understanding of what character really meant. This is understandable because character is often loosely defined. But since it is a rather ambiguous concept, character has seldom been used in recruiting, selecting, performance rating, promoting, disciplining or developing current and future leaders. There are at least three explanations for the significant disconnect between the perceived importance of character and its actual use in organizations. First, character is a “loaded” word and, as we found out during our conversations with leaders, it has different meanings to different people. Second, a language or vocabulary with which to address character issues in the workplace is lacking. Leaders told us they need a contemporary, practice-focused vocabulary with which to address character in performance management discussions, leadership development interventions and governance issues. Third, leaders have long lacked the tools needed to move from thinking and talking about character development to actually doing something about it. 10
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Character dimensions Our qualitative (e.g., focus groups and interviews) and quantitative (e.g., surveys and longitudinal research designs) research involving over 2,500 leaders from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors resulted in the identification of 11 character dimensions or virtues. Each of these dimensions consists of a number of behaviors – which we call character elements – that are illustrative of the dimension. The dimensions and elements are an amalgam of virtues, personality traits and values that enable excellence. Virtues refer to situation-appropriate behaviours that are widely seen as representative of good leadership. Some of these virtues are personality traits, such as resiliency and openness, which are relatively stable dispositional variables. And some of the virtues operate as values, such as being equitable or transparency. Judgment is placed at the centre of the character framework since it plays a critical role in decision-making and subsequent performance. Judgment is the outcome of the application of the character dimensions in situationappropriate ways. For example, the wise leader understands when it is appropriate to foster collaboration and be considerate of other peoples’ concerns and when it is best to demonstrate initiative and go at it alone; when to act with determination and confidence and when to be patient and reflective; and so forth. Since judgment is central in orchestrating and activating the character dimensions as required by the situation, it follows that leaders should be comfortable to express all dimensions – a tall order for most! Yet we need our leaders to be capable of handling myriad challenges and seizing opportunities when they present themselves. Each character dimension matters – because of what it contributes to leader behaviour, and because of what happens to leader behaviour if the dimension is missing. Imagine, for example, what happens when leaders with high drive lack temperance – reckless behaviour typically results. Or, consider the outcomes of a candid conversation where the leader lacked empathy and compassion – resentment and a decline in morale are likely outcomes. And, without integrity, accountability will always be suspect. Strength of character resides in our capacity to call upon any dimension of character at any time.
Taking character into account Our research has also found that leaders generally agree that organizations do not do a very good job taking character into account in making decisions about hiring, promotion and succession. For example, a systematic and thorough character assessment during the hiring process is seldom done well. Often it is driven by the absence of negatives rather than a focus on the character dimensions that are thought to be particularly important in a given role. For example, to say, “I’ve heard nothing bad about the applicant’s character,” certainly does not mean the candidate has demonstrated courage, integrity, accountability, temperance or other character dimensions. This begs the question how we can embed leader character into organizations to build excellence.
COVER STORY Organizations can make character more explicit in the hiring process by adding character to job profiles. For example, both the City of Calgary and the City of Hamilton have taken the initiative to include character into the description of what it takes to be a successful leader at the city. An important avenue of ensuring that character resonates throughout an organization is to embed character in leadership development practices. We know that there are people who believe that character cannot be developed – that you either have it or you don’t. This belief is simply wrong. There is ample research that shows that character can be developed. As humans, we have the potential to learn, modify our behaviours, adapt to changing environments and experiment as we make our way in life. We do not always act on that potential but it is always there to be seized upon. Individuals can choose to look for opportunities for learning and development. This includes things like taking advantage of stretch assignments and other opportunities provided by the organization. Reflection plays a critical role in the learning process. There are two distinct kinds of reflection. The first is reflection on action: the conscious pulling back from our day-to-day activities in order to contemplate those activities and draw lessons from them. Reflection on action allows leaders to see patterns over time, and perhaps make adjustments in their approaches to leadership. The second is reflection in action: the real-time processing of the feedback loops between how we are behaving, how our behaviours are being interpreted by others and whether the behaviours need modifying in order for us to go where we want to go. It’s always tempting for individuals to say that they don’t have time for reflection. We are always busy. But the opposite is true – leaders don’t have the luxury of failing to reflect. Such reflection of course requires data or feedback. Everyone has lots of data. We get feedback on how we interacted with people after key meetings, in formal and informal appraisals and from conversations with mentors on the progress we’re making in our roles. We get feedback from friends and non-friends, from family and from colleagues. But this feedback is often fragmented, frequently contradictory and sometimes given in ways that are not conducive to development. But we should all remember that feedback is a gift. Some of it we expected to hear; at other times, we are surprised by the candor with which people provided the feedback.
cultures. Mentors provide a sounding board for individuals and an opportunity to share personal experiences in handling challenging workplace situations and the leadership lessons embedded in these situations. They hire and promote those who seem to demonstrate the appropriate behaviours, and sometimes fire those who disappoint along that dimension. They model the character they want to see throughout the organization. Finally, they provide the resources and personal engagement in character-based formal leadership development processes and programs that will contribute to creating a high-performing organization staffed by people of good character. Failure to address character clearly, systematically and aggressively leaves many leadership development programs merely scratching the surface of possibilities. It is an understatement to say that the world craves better leadership. The need for better leadership is evident from headlines alluding to leadership failures across virtually all
“There are people who believe that character cannot be developed – that you either have it or you don’t. This belief is simply wrong. There is ample research that shows that character can be developed.” sectors of society. But whether the quality of leadership in our organizations improves or not depends on the efforts of many stakeholders – families, schools, clubs, religious institutions, boards, professional associations, senior leaders and so forth. Organizations are good at addressing leadership competencies. In contrast, character often gets ignored. It would be a far better approach to tailor leadership development programs to the needs of the organization and its people, so that they address both the competencies that leaders have to call upon and the character dimensions that they need to develop. Developing leader character is a lifelong journey. The possibility to develop character exists in every moment of every day.
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Helping others develop character The senior leaders in an organization play a number of key roles in promoting the development of character. They can help expose individuals to learning opportunities that force them to activate character dimensions by personally coaching individuals when they encounter teachable moments that would otherwise slip by. They shape the formal and informal corporate cultures they believe will lead to the organization’s success. This requires leaders to embed character into their current processes and systems. They coach and mentor junior colleagues so that they can succeed in those
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FIRST NATIONS AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT FOR LARGE SCALE PROJECTS By Sarah B. Hood
Q4 2016 www.amcto.com
NEGOT IAT ION
n 2015, the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation in B.C. rejected a billion-dollar offer from the Petronas energy company to build the $30-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal on their land – a deal that would have represented more than $250,000 for every member of the band. (The project is still under consideration.) In early 2016, the De Beers diamond company stopped work on Ontario’s only diamond mine, the Tango extension, after protests from members of the local Attawapiskat First Nation. The public resistance to Site C, a $9-billion hydroelectricity project on British Columbia’s Peace River, has been strong enough to have a chilling effect on other projects; last May, Northland Power withdrew two major wind farm projects from the environmental approval process; both had been on hold pending decisions about Site C. It doesn’t take a public policy expert to see how important it is to win community approval for large-scale resource development projects. Doing it wrong can waste enormous investments in time, money and brand reputation. However, there aren’t many guidelines for approaching this kind of community consultation. To address this, in December 2015, the C.D. Howe Institute published a report titled From “Social Licence” to “Social Partnership”: Promoting Shared Interests for Resource and Infrastructure Development. Its authors, Dr. Geoffrey Hale and Dr. Yale D. Belanger, both of the Department of Political Science at the University of Lethbridge, identify best practices for successful community engagement around these types of projects. The researchers examined numerous examples of multi-stakeholder groups and networks, sometimes called synergy groups. “The terms vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; the objective is to bring all those who have an ongoing involvement with the impact of particular projects together,” said Hale. “Where the multi-stakeholder group has ongoing value is after the project is approved, and you need someone to keep talking over the medium-to-long haul. It is possible that municipal councils or officials can deal with these things, but in many cases, we have projects that cut across jurisdictional lines,” he said. Multi-stakeholder groups represent proponents and communities within an entire watershed or airshed, while “corridor coalitions” connect those concerned with infrastructure projects extending across jurisdictions, like railroads or pipelines. “What we are seeing with the energy sector is the kind of requirement for accommodation and adaptation that the development sector has been seeing for a number of decades,” said Hale, pointing to “a need to view the process not as adversarial, but as an ongoing engagement of relevant stakeholders, including communities, municipalities, governments and a MUNICIPAL MONITOR
cross-section of industry groups, not just at the front end of the project, but for the full life of the project. “A variety of different approaches have been used in different communities that allow for ongoing engagement,” he said. Among the success stories is Sundre Petroleum Operators Group (SPOG) in Alberta, whose mission statement is “to facilitate communication and co-operation amongst primarily petroleum industry partners, regulatory agencies and the community.” “One of the issues that came up from the discussion between SPOG and local municipalities was the problem of communication with first responders. They ended up paying for a new radio system so the collective emergency response from two communities could be on the same wavelength – literally,” said Hale. “They also created a cultural environment in which it became habitual to talk things out before going ballistic.” Given the sweeping changes and significant impact that projects like pipelines, mines, dams, wind farms and quarries typically bring to the communities living near them, negotiating public approval is inherently complex – even more so when Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit or Métis) lands are affected. “First Nations communities increasingly view themselves as rights holders, not stakeholders, so you have to develop parallel processes to deal with Indigenous and nonIndigenous communities,” said Hale. “There has to be a way to deal with all the First Nations communities before the project starts and on an ongoing basis.” He explains that since the 1999 Corbiere decision from the Supreme Court of Canada (a case initiated by members of the Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways in Northern Ontario), all members of a given community have the right to voice their opinion on issues affecting their traditional lands – even if they are not in residence there. This consideration came into play in the negotiations between the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation and Petronas’ Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal. “Petronas had come to an agreement with the band council, but it was turned down flat by community members living in Vancouver and Prince Rupert,” said Hale. “You have to have a process to engage the wider community. In many cases, you will have cases going back generations. Getting to a point of partnership on those issues is going to take much tactful effort over an extended period of time, because you are dealing with an extended legacy of 200 years.” “Then there are urban Aboriginal communities that are growing and that would like to have a voice in local policy development that may not be specifically affiliated with a community,” said Belanger, “so the complexity and the dynamics associated with First Nations and Aboriginal communities have grown in the last 15 years to a degree that municipal planners must be incredibly aware and develop plans that engage those communities, as opposed to just turning up on the doorstep and saying, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ ” Municipalities will likely find themselves increasingly engaged in these types of conversations over the coming years, because, although there is a long history in Canada of federal and provincial negotiations with Indigenous 14
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N E G OT I AT I O N
“Back in the 1950s, roughly five per cent of all Aboriginal people lived in cities; today, that number has grown to roughly 56 per cent.” – Dr. Yale D. Belanger, University of Lethbridge communities, “for the most part, when it comes to municipal and Aboriginal engagement, we’re really at the beginning stages of relationship development,” said Belanger. “Back in the 1950s, it was estimated that roughly five per cent of all Aboriginal people [in Canada] lived in cities; today, that number has grown to roughly 56 per cent. Where once upon a time, most Native people lived on reserves, we now have ideas like urban Aboriginal self-government becoming better understood and recognized,” he said. “The greatest area of interaction between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is in the cities. There’s going to be a real need for those communities to come together regionally to promote or fight against resource development.” The official recognition of the right to self-government (dating from 1995), along with better public education, key court decisions and “peaceful, unrelenting, ubiquitous” activism on the part of Indigenous communities have all played a part in changing the landscape for dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada. “If there’s poor consultation, you run the risk of alienating one another,” said Belanger. “That could really endanger existing economic relationships that are in place. As First Nations become more economically solvent, you could potentially endanger future relationships. Little things like that can cost tens of millions of dollars in commerce and undermine relationships that over time are going to come to rely more and more on one another.” Whether the community in question is Indigenous or nonIndigenous, “do we have any solutions? There are no magic bullets,” said Hale. “It is a process of building trust, often in a situation of constrained resources. It’s all about integrating skills to create an ongoing cycle of trust.”
OPEN GUE L P H
CITY FORWARD Guelph focuses on innovation as it works to redefine open municipal government
he City of Guelph is working hard to redefine open government in the municipal context. Since municipal services are deeply infused into the day-to-day lives of citizens, the so-called “Royal City” is focusing on a simple guiding vision: modernizing city services in order to give residents great service. “We focus on how to infuse transparency, accountability, participation and innovation into our services and culture,” said Andy Best, the city’s open government program manager. He is the first full-time, managementlevel employee dedicated to realizing Guelph’s open government vision. “Open government is a triple opportunity,” said Best. “Often, in order to create that great user experience for residents, you have to create new tools.
On the back end, those modernized tools enable city staff to work smarter and make more informed decisions with better data. This creates efficiencies that can help relieve the financial pressures currently facing cities. Great citizen experience, new tools, internal efficiencies. It’s an exciting time to be working in local government.”
Government imperatives While Guelph is known for its proactive approach to open government principles and practices, Best’s newly created position as open government program manager illustrates the depth of the city’s commitment. “Becoming a more open and responsive government requires a mix of project and change management,” said Barb Swartzentruber, the city’s
executive director of intergovernmental relations, policy and open government. “A program manager helps align resources to support city employees who are creating positive change. The fact is that transparency and accountability aren’t just overused buzzwords, they are government imperatives. We need the processes and resources in place to modernize our services to provide the exceptional public services our citizens and businesses expect.” Many of those essential processes were in development at the City of Guelph long before Best arrived in summer 2015. For example, the “myGuelph” initiative is a multi-departmental effort that aims to meet citizens’ ever-increasing expectations about how they want to interact with municipal government.
By Lisa Gordon
IMAGES COURTESY OF THE CITY OF GUELPH
OP E N G UE L P H
It’s being designed as a digital onestop-shop for services, information and participation opportunities. Within the site, residents will be able to create a customizable dashboard that will serve as a single window to connect with the city services they need. “If we do 100 things, citizens may only care about a handful of them,” said Best. “Given the breadth of municipal services, it’s important for residents to be able to tailor their digital civic experience to their needs. As examples, you will be able to register for swimming lessons, sign up for automated text reminders of your garbage collection schedule, report a wide variety of issues to the necessary departments or see your tax bill.” myGuelph is currently under development for an early 2018 launch. In the meantime, features and new digital services are being designed, user tested and released throughout 2016 and 2017.
Accelerated solutions Best said there are several other open government initiatives underway, all of them designed to “unleash smart people on the city’s challenges.” 16
Q4 2016 www.amcto.com
The Civic Accelerator is one of the largest such programs. It connects innovative startups with the city to create civic technology products that will improve service and efficiency. “We put out big picture challenges we have not been able to crack, or to which there was no obvious solution. Then we invited anyone, be it a startup or other innovator, to pitch their solutions to us,” said Best. “The result is new creative partnerships that allow us to experiment and prototype, something that’s not typically easy in government purchasing processes.” On Aug. 17, Guelph announced it had selected two winners for challenges issued on June 20. Milieu won the planning notifications challenge with a proposal for a web and mobile application that connects citizens, urban developers and city officials so they can collaborate on planning decisions. Alert Labs responded to the water data challenge with a proposal for realtime alerts sent to a customer’s phone for emergencies like floods or leaks, based on sensors that require zero technical skill to install.
In September, employees from the two winning companies were embedded in city departments to accelerate the development of their solutions. The embed period will culminate in a demo day in mid-December. Along the same vein, Guelph has also hosted hackathons that encourage skilled individuals to develop apps that can address specific public problems, using any of the 32 open data sets currently available from the city. At a hackathon in early 2015, a coder created an app that delivered waste collection notifications to citizens. Recognized as a useful tool, Best said it is now being built out as an official product. The city also worked with a local company to develop an app for municipal grass cutting crews. “We digitized the entire process so that when they leave a park, they click to say it was done,” he said. “That info feeds into our open data portal. It creates transparency around park maintenance schedules and saves each person 25 minutes of paperwork at the end of every shift, so it improved internal efficiency, too.” Financially minded Guelph residents can take a crack at the budgeting process through an online budget simulator that lets them suggest how to spend public dollars. In the coming years, Best said the simulator may become more of a concrete consultation tool for public budget feedback. The city also has a civic innovation partnership with the University of Guelph called the Guelph Lab, which works to increase the capacity of both institutions to tackle complex challenges. For the city, it unlocks the civic potential of the university and applies it to local challenges.
Encouraging innovation Much of the good work being done in Guelph is driven by frontline staff members who recognize a need and envision a solution. In early 2014, the city’s former chief administrative officer met with a catchbasin cleaning crew to discuss some of the challenges they were experiencing on the job. Returning to her office, she tasked Suzanne Holder, project
OPEN GUE L P H coordinator in the Office of the CAO, to develop a mechanism whereby staff could pitch their ideas, have decisions made quickly and connect with the tools and resources to do their jobs well. The result is the city’s Innovation Fund, a peer-to-peer led process where city employees can pitch their ideas to a panel of their peers, who can award resources if they believe the idea has merit. With $50,000 in seed money, the program got off the ground in summer 2014 with a total of 21 pitches. Winners were announced shortly afterwards, and today, most of the ideas have been implemented. Examples of winning pitches include a bus driver who proposed more riderfriendly signage at Guelph’s bus hub, and a city works staffer who advocated for the purchase of wing-blade carts that would allow for easier mounting and dismounting of the blades – used for clearing snow – on city trucks. In another pitch, the court services department asked for an investment of $8,000 so it could access the Equifax program database, which would allow it to more efficiently locate people who owed outstanding court-ordered tickets or fines. Implemented at the beginning of 2015, the new program brought in $140,000 in fines over the year, allowing for the closure of more than 800 cases. Holder said the Innovation Fund has been so successful that Guelph has launched its second request for pitches. “It turned out better than we could have hoped,” she said. “Staff felt supported by senior management and recognized for their great ideas. They felt they had a voice and were being heard.”
Collective collaboration Collaboration is a founding pillar of Guelph’s open government initiative. Many voices make for unique solutions, a belief shared by Jennifer Smith, manager of corporate and community strategic initiatives. Smith coordinates the City of Guelph’s roundtables initiative, a process that brings executives together with employees, city councillors and citizen stakeholders to discuss specific
“The fact is that transparency and accountability aren’t just overused buzzwords, they are government imperatives.” – Barb Swartzentruber, Executive Director of Intergovernmental Relations, Policy and Open Government, City of Guelph challenges standing in the way of the “perfect city.” “It’s a new approach, with the tables really starting their work last fall,” said Smith. “They are quite experimental in nature and have proved excellent testing grounds for trying out new tools and methods at the city.” The end goal, she says, is to build the city’s capacity for collaborative problem solving by giving more stakeholders a voice; increasing problem-solving skills (particularly methods and tools that build empathy and understanding from a user perspective); and developing practical solutions that work. Real improvements were made with the marriage licence process, whereby citizen experience led to a number of ground level enhancements. Smith said new roundtable groups will be considered for 2017. While Andy Best may now be in the middle of Guelph’s open government push, it’s clear that the city’s progress is a collective effort that involves all stakeholders – elected officers, managers, frontline employees and citizens alike.
While the transformation is a living process involving trial and error, each success provides a solid block upon which Guelph is building the open city of the future.
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Q4 2016 www.amcto.com
INTERNET VOT I N G
Internet Voting and Voter Turnout
Does adoption of the voting reform in Ontario municipal elections positively affect voter participation?
ith the 2018 Ontario municipal elections about two years away, many municipal administrators are in the process of determining whether they should make the move to modernize local elections, notably through Internet voting. In recent years, an increasing number of communities have adopted Internet voting and are either planning to offer it, or are considering using the voting reform, in the forthcoming election. Municipal uptake of Internet voting in Ontario has nearly doubled with each election since 2003. With 97 cities and towns having used the voting method in 2014, it is expected that around 200 will offer Internet voting in 2018. According to a 2014 survey in 47 municipalities across the province administered as part of the Internet Voting Project, the primary rationales for adopting Internet voting include to enhance accessibility, improve voter turnout and add convenience for voters. These responses focus on making it easier for voters to cast a ballot or encouraging voter participation. The common thread, however, is improved voter engagement in local elections. Hopes of voter turnout increases are echoed elsewhere in Canada (e.g., Nova Scotia) where municipalities are also looking to modernize voting to reduce the perceived costs of casting a ballot and encourage residents to participate. As municipalities adopt and consider Internet voting, it is important to understand whether the voting reform impacts voter turnout to better inform municipal governments in their decision-making.
Internet voting and turnout To date, assessments of changes in voter participation from the deployment of Internet voting have been based on evidence in particular communities instead of systematic analysis of elections over time. When the City of Markham first introduced Internet voting in advance polls in 2003, for example, they experienced a 300 per cent increase in voter participation, and a further 43 per cent increase in the 2006
election. Other cities and towns, however, have trialled the technology with much lesser effects, or observed a decrease in voter turnout, leaving many to question whether the voting reform actually improves voter participation. Ontario is one of the best cases in the world to test whether voting online has an impact on turnout because adoption of the voting reform across municipalities varies over time. The number of binding local elections using Internet voting also provides many cases â€“ 171 local elections used Internet voting from 2003 to 2014. Finally, cities and towns have taken different approaches to Internet voting adoption â€“ with some offering online ballots in advance of Election Day, some requiring registration to vote online and some eliminating paper voting altogether. Drawing on local elections in Ontario from 2000 to 2014, our recent study examined the extent to which, if any, Internet voting adoption impacts voter turnout. Inclusion of the 2000 elections provided a baseline for turnout rates before the voting technology was introduced. We also looked at the competitiveness of the race for mayor/reeve, and data from the census for population, population density, unemployment, income, proportion of population with a university degree, proportion of population aged 65 or older and proportion of population that are immigrants. We find that Internet voting adoption is associated with a three per cent increase in voter participation, and this result is consistent over time. This confirms that Internet voting impacts turnout positively, but what does this result mean for municipal elections and Internet voting adoption? First, it is clear from these results that the implementation of Internet voting in local elections is not the silver bullet solution to increase voter participation. Voter turnout is complex and a number of factors influence whether electors turn out at voting time. On the other hand, this increase should not be discounted as marginal. While it may seem modest, it increased the effective voting population by seven
By Nicole Goodman and Leah C. Stokes
I N T E RN E T VOTIN G
“Making online voting easier to use naturally encourages more people to make use of it.” per cent. Furthermore, it potentially changed the results in 10 per cent of competitive mayoral elections if, for example, Internet voters held different candidate preferences since the margin of victory in those elections was three per cent or less. While Internet voting is not a panacea, it impacts voter participation and could affect election outcomes when there is a close race between candidates. This should not alarm local elected representatives. There is a perception that offering Internet voting will encourage lots of young, more liberally oriented voters to participate and potentially unseat conservative-leaning incumbents. While we do not yet know about the partisan orientations of municipal voters in Ontario, since there are no local-level political parties and given that these questions haven’t been asked in surveys, research from the 2014 municipal elections shows that the younger voters, especially those aged 18 to 34, prefer to vote by paper. This probably has to do with the fact that many of these electors may be voting for the first time and casting a paper ballot at a polling station is a symbolic rite of passage. It also shows, however, that younger electors are not as drawn to Internet voting, perhaps allaying this concern.
Considerations of the policy design In addition to examining whether Internet voting affects voter participation, we also looked at specific features of the policy design and how this impacts uptake. Specifically, we looked at whether eliminating paper ballots, only allowing Internet voting to be used in advance of Election Day and requiring registration to use Internet voting affected citizens’ use of it. Results show that when there is no registration requirement, 35 per cent more electors choose to cast a ballot by Internet. This isn’t too surprising. Not requiring voters to register to access an online ballot lowers the opportunity cost of using the voting method. Making online voting easier to use naturally encourages more people to make use of it. Regarding advance voting, in 2014, six municipalities offered Internet voting in advance of the election only, while 91 continued it as an option on Election Day. Our analysis, although not quite significant, suggests that about nine per cent less people voted online when it was offered in the advance-voting period. Municipal administrators could expect a higher uptake of the voting method when it is offered for the entire voting period. What about when paper voting is eliminated? Fifty-nine Ontario municipalities ran fully electronic elections in 2014 – 58 of those used a combination of Internet and telephone ballots, while the municipality of Leamington held the first Internet-only election. In these cases, 12 per cent more 20
Q4 2016 www.amcto.com
people chose to vote online. Regarding turnout, eliminating paper voting is associated with a two per cent increase in voter turnout. This should not necessarily encourage other municipalities to take this route. Many of the communities that eliminated paper voting have seasonal populations where the cost of traveling to traditional poll locations may not have been an option for these property owners.
Future considerations The decision to adopt Internet voting depends on the unique contextual considerations of each municipality. Population and electorate size, population density, public attitudes, broadband infrastructure, Internet penetration, bureaucratic and political will, previous rates of voter participation as well as specific characteristics of the electorate such as age, income and education are factors that determine whether deployment of the voting method is appropriate in a given community. The intention of this article is not to promote or oppose online voting adoption, but to educate the municipal community about the effects on voter participation and how specific features of the policy design can influence elector uptake. Our research shows that over time in Ontario municipalities, Internet voting is associated with a three per cent effect on voter participation. Not requiring registration and offering online voting for the full voting period, including Election Day, will have the highest uptake among electors. Though we are not advocating for their phasing out, even situations where paper ballots were eliminated are associated with a turnout increase of two per cent. Overall, Internet voting has a modest, positive effect on voter participation. It won’t substantially solve municipal turnout woes, but its impact could still change local elections. These are important facts to know as municipal administrators consider whether to offer Internet voting in 2018. The authors sincerely thank municipal clerks’ offices across Ontario for providing municipal election data. Special thanks also to AMCTO, AMO, MPAC and local media for providing information about municipal elections, and Theo Nazary, Cody Boomer, Brian Budd, Ed Cabrera, Matthew Maingot and Matthew McManus for assistance in contacting municipal officials. Nicole Goodman is director at the Centre for e-Democracy with a concurrent appointment with the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Leah C. Stokes is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Both authors contributed equally to the research.
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