Local elections, regional roulette

When British Columbians go to the polls this Saturday to vote for mayors and councillors, they’ll also be voting indirectly for the next chair of their regional district.  This is a little strange, because we don’t know who the candidates will be for those regional leadership positions.

Metro Vancouver, the largest region, is budgeted to spend $620 million in 2012, or $524 for every household in the region.  The chair has influence over the Metro agenda; works closely with the well-paid ($323,767 in 2010) chief administrator, Johnny Carline, whose almost supernatural invisibility in the online world testifies to a high degree of skill; and perhaps most significant, the chair appoints the membership of the Metro committees that oversee Metro’s utilities, parks, housing and planning activities.  Continue reading

Amalgamating Metro’s municipalities

Early in my career as a news reporter I covered local council meetings in Greater Ottawa — travelling to such high spots as the City of Nepean, the City of Gloucester, and the City of Kanata.  The new Ontario Conservative government of the 1990s moved with haste to abolish these jurisdictions and dozens of others, creating unified megacities in Ottawa, Toronto and elsewhere.

The justification in Ontario was that larger government units are less costly and better at making decisions.  This same argument is occasionally heard in Fraseropolis (there is an ongoing back-and-forth on SkyscraperPage). But British Columbia has never elected a megacitifying provincial regime, and the regional district of Metro Vancouver still takes in a bewildering variety of cities, towns and villages.  Continue reading