Media Release – Smart Local Government: The Frontier Centre points to outcomes, not rules, as necessary for Canada’s cities

Press Release, Municipal Government, Frontier Centre


Winnipeg: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released Creating proper incentives for Canada’s cities through smart provincial legislation: A best-practice model of local government. The study notes how Canadian municipal law is characterized by its prescriptive rules-based codes of compliance. That contrasts starkly with modern local government laws of other countries which seek to facilitate best-management practice by setting outcomes rather than rules. The approach of other countries leads to a performance and service-delivery framework designed to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of local taxpayers and residents.
A New Zealand model for local government
The study compares municipal law in New Zealand with equivalent law in Canada. The New Zealand Act provides for the following:
  • It sets local government outcomes that can be achieved within practically based best-practice management processes;
  • These include asset and financial long-term planning, consultative process and democratic decision-making;
“Good local government law promotes good local government,” writes the study’s author, Frontier senior fellow Larry Mitchell, C.A. “The result of this approach is a municipal form of a performance-based framework, one that motivates highly skilled modern management to make better decisions and to achieve better outcomes. All of these processes are constructed to comply with good local government principles of transparency, accountability and the separation of operational and policy activities.”
Mitchell notes that in practical terms, one important effect of the New Zealand approach has been the accurate measurement and full funding of municipal assets. Another effect has been the recruitment of highly trained managers at all levels. These people are attracted to fulfilling careers in a local government that uses many modern management techniques. They are further stimulated by the incentives provided by performance-based pay.
Recommendations and likely results
  • Canada should adopt much of New Zealand’s local government legislation.
  • Federal support for local provincial government law reform could be an impetus for change for the provinces. This might take the form of linking federal infrastructure funding to the required improvements in law.
This adoption would have the following results:
  • It would improve local government performance. There is no argument that improvements are necessary, as Canadian municipalities score poorly when measured on a number of international performance scales.
  • The national economy would benefit directly from local government law reform. Much of the economy’s vital arterial economic lines of production and supply, the nation’s roads and the water and waste-water systems, are owned and managed by the municipalities.
“The culture change and improved standards of management performance that would occur with the change of law will give rise to positive benefits for local taxpayers and residents, “notes Mitchell. “The productive and supportive liaison between communities and their local municipalities, based on New Zealand experience, will be significantly enhanced.”
Download a copy of Creating proper incentives for Canada’s cities through smart provincial legislation here:

For more information and to arrange an interview with the study’s author, media (only) should contact:

Larry Mitchell

64-9-422-0598 (New Zealand)
*Note: Larry Mitchell is based in New Zealand. Reporters should call the study author between 1p.m. and 10p.m., Central Standard Time (Winnipeg time).
Gary Slywchuk
Troy Media Corporation