Left to right: Leslie Seidle, Yves Ducharme, Christine May, Barbara Hall
Session Two Local Governance in a Globalized World
YVES DUCHARME, Mayor, City of Gatineau and Second Vice-President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (bio)
COUNCILLOR CHRISTINE MAY, Leader, Administration of Fife Council and Member, Commission for Constitutional Affairs and European Governance of the EU Committee of the Regions (bio)
BARBARA HALL, Former Mayor of Toronto; Former Chair, National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention (bio)
F. LESLIE SEIDLE, Research Associate, Family Network, Canadian Policy Research Networks (bio)
Synopsis by Parul Shah
The first session of the Couchiching Conference, moderated by Leslie Seidle from the Canadian Policy Research Networks, brought together Yves Ducharme, mayor of the city of Gatineau, Councillor Christine May, leader of the Administration of Fife Council, and former Toronto mayor, Barbara Hall, to discuss the pressures, challenges, and opportunities facing local and municipal governments in an age on increasing interdependence.
According to Yves Ducharme, discussion about the affects of globalization on cities must address three issues. First, that the local sphere is integral in improving the quality of life. Second, that public stability requires transparency and participation at all levels of government, including the local. Finally, that cities can and need to play a significant role in global governance. With the decentralization of government, and the consequent downloading of responsibilities onto local governments, the need for municipal involvement internationally has increased. The question, therefore, is how can cities influence global governance? Ducharme argues that cities must be partners in international cooperation. He makes an example of organizations such as the United Nations Association of Local Authorities (UNACLA), which acknowledges the need for cities to share information in order to improve their services and build their capacities for handling global issues. He adds, however, that institutions such as the World Bank need to become more democratic by engaging local government those governments that are closest to the people.
Councilor Christine May addresses the impact of globalization on the local level by questioning why globalization is not working for the people. Despite their differences, cities around the world share common problems such as poverty, the digital divide, poor housing, sustainable transport, and susceptibility to global conflict. While the forces of globalization are making us more interdependent, they are simultaneously leading to fragmentation along socio-economic lines for example, the increasing gap between rich and poor. These fissures contribute to certain people and communities feeling like they do not play a relevant role in the decision-making process. How, then, can cities balance local control over these issues against global interdependence? May answers this question by examining initiatives that were taken to enhance democratic processes in Scotland and the European Union. She concludes that establishing this balance requires that governments and citizens be willing to accept: new models of decision-making that lie outside traditional government structures, complex policy issues that transcend traditional policy boundaries, policy integration among all spheres of government, and flexible partnerships based on negotiations.
Barbara Hall concluded the session by examining the discrepancy between the complex issues that are facing cities and the lack of resources available to them to address these issues. In 1849 an act for urban areas was established that identified drunkenness, profanity, running of cattle and prevention of noise among the major concerns of the municipal government. Hall argues that while todays issues have become more complex, the tools and infrastructure for handling them remains much the same as it was in 1849. She, therefore, calls for a `new municipal toolbox. This new toolbox must address the fact that economic globalization affects the social fabric of communities, that better mechanisms for enhancing accountability and citizen participation are needed, that economic health requires social and environmental health, and that governance requires innovation. In order to be more effective, representative, and accountable, cities need the following: more autonomy and effective institutions; well-defined responsibilities and resources; the ability to delegate authority to other bodies; more funding access to a diverse tax base (the property tax alone is an inappropriate means of funding social obligations); long-term stable funding for social infrastructure; and a seat at the table with other levels of government. In conclusion, a new vision of cities is needed if the urban challenges of today are to be met.