Capacity, voice and opportunity: advancing municipal engagement in Canadian federal relations

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Tomas Hachard


In Canada, municipalities are involved in an increasing number of policy areas, but they remain largely absent from the nation’s system of intergovernmental relations. Municipal representatives do not attend First Ministers’ meetings that gather the Prime Minister and heads of each province and territory. They are also largely excluded from intergovernmental councils or committees focused on specific policy areas. Nor do they participate in the negotiation of most intergovernmental agreements.

This paper explores how Canada’s intergovernmental infrastructure could be reformed to include municipalities. It does so through an analysis of how other countries have made space for municipalities in their intergovernmental processes. After drawing five lessons from international experience, the paper concludes with four approaches to reforming intergovernmental relations in Canada: (1) ensure municipalities have the capacity, voice and structures to participate effectively in intergovernmental relations; (2) increase municipal involvement in provincial policy-making, including potentially through co-governed intergovernmental councils; (3) as far as possible, eliminate unfunded mandates(ie responsibilities devolved without adequate funding to discharge them) through, for example, provincial legislation or provincial–municipal intergovernmental agreements that require consultation on the fiscal impacts of draft legislation or regulation on municipalities; (4) strengthen trilateral (national/provincial/municipal) relations, including through location-specific or policy-specific agreements, and trilateral intergovernmental councils.

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How to Cite
Hachard, T. (2022). Capacity, voice and opportunity: advancing municipal engagement in Canadian federal relations. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, (27), 102-124.
Research and Evaluation (peer-reviewed)