Big Government Not Better

Media Appearances, Municipal Government, Andre Carrel

Ron Joseph’s Tuesday letter to the editor (“Overhaul Municipal Fiefdoms”) is a regurgitation of an old assumption that municipal amalgamations reduce costs.

That myth has been debunked many times in studies and analyses of municipal mergers (e.g., Andrew Sancton, University of Western Ontario, “Merger Mania: The Assault on Local Government,” 2000; Wendell Cox, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, “Reassessing Local Government Amalgamation,” 2003).

Canadian municipal amalgamations have produced results very much at odds with self-serving predictions made by agenda-driven proponents. The Winnipeg amalgamation, over 30 years ago, and more recent amalgamations in Halifax, Ottawa, Hamilton, and Toronto produced identical predictable results: bigger governments are less effective, less efficient, and more expensive than smaller governments.

The economy of scale principle does not apply to governments because governments are pyramid organizations built on layer upon expanding layer of management as the organization grows. The council at the top of the pyramid is not what determines the cost of government. That cost is determined by the distance separating the chief administrative officer from the snowplow operator.

In a municipality such as Montrose, that distance is covered in one step. The larger the municipality, the more layers of administrators, managers, supervisors and foremen, all with their assistants, deputies and secretaries, and the more staff meeting time dedicated to coordinate policies and activities.

The bigger the municipality the taller the pyramid and the greater the cost of overhead for every kilometre driven by every snowplow operator.

The above-mentioned and other studies on the subject do not make assumptions; they provide irrefutable evidence that big government does not equate efficient government. (If it were so, the federal government would be a model of efficiency). Ron Joseph’s advice should not be taken for gospel; consult the research instead.

André Carrel
Terrace, B.C.

Editor’s note: Andre Carrel is a former administrator for several local municipalities