Civics Boot Camp: Understanding Your Government
Welcome back to Civics Boot Camp!
Week number two: learning about municipal governance
In the second session of Civics Boot Camp, participants learned about municipal governments.
In Canada, municipalities are a provincial responsibility, being created by provincial powers to provide local services, such as housing, waste management, water and sewage, emergency services, parks and recreation, roads and transit, and libraries.
However, although they have a lot of responsibilities, municipal governments are not free to do whatever they choose. There are constraints imposed on them by provincial legislation and the level of resources provided to them by the provincial and federal governments is limited.
Ontario municipalities are a good example of this. Of all the provinces, the Ontario government gives the least amount of revenue to municipalities, yet is the only province that requires cities to deliver many health and social services to residents.
So where does Ottawa fit?
Ottawa is a unique city when it comes to looking at governance since it has so many different levels of governments all trying to work together.
Ottawa is home to the Parliament of Canada, National Capital Commission, and the department of Public Works and Government Services. Three major federal institutions that can shape the future of Ottawa with their jurisdictional power.
Plus, to add to this confusion, Ottawa is still being governed by provincial laws, has to deal with its own city council, and has to work with the Gatineau government across the river in Quebec.
After hearing all this, it makes sense why some people say Ottawa suffers from a multiple personality disorder.
Participants were asked in who their dream mayor of Ottawa would be
Ottawa can be a jungle of jursidictions
Citizen initiatives can be complex in Ottawa due the levels of governmental jurisdictions in the way.
In the second session, participants learned about carefully analyzing their initiatives, understanding the importance of reaching out to and getting people on board with their idea, and finally how the city of Ottawa works.
Here is a quick synopsis on how these run down at city hall.
To start off, the Municipal Government is made up of democratically elected officials - the Mayor and Councillors, and the City Staff who support them.
Every 4 years, Canadian citizens living in Ottawa elect a City Council, made up of a Mayor (elected by all voters) 23 Councillors (one per ward elected by voters in that ward) and School Board Trustees for the 4 area school boards. The last election was held on October 27, 2014.
The Mayor is the leader and chairs Council meetings. His/her job is to build consensus within Council so that decisions can be made.
Councillors are responsible to represent the interests of the residents of their Ward, to keep them informed and to consult them. They play a key role in shaping policy and providing direction on program design.
Community Associations, while not apart of the municipal government, still have affect on the city's governance. They are made up of volunteers living within a neighbourhood and are great avenue to your further a local initiative.
The power of networking
There are tons of other people looking to make change in this city, just like you. Community associations and city councillors are always waiting to hear great, new ideas.
They just need hear these ideas in order to help you.
So, how do you get heard? By networking as much as possible.
According to Caroline Andrew, Director of the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa, making connections is how you will take your initiative past the planning stage.
Caroline Andrew is the Director of the Centre on Governance at University of Ottawa.
Caroline says that networking is a key factor in order to get your goal heard.
During the second session of Civics Boot Camp, participants engaged with each other, networking in groups of six with each team beginning to create a common initiative.
After the session ended, participants Eric Barkel and Wiggum Ngo spoke about what they learned from the session.
Barkel, from Hintonburg, highlighted the importance of networking.
Eric Barkel, from Hintonburg, says he learned that he has to work together in order to get heard by the many levels of governance in Ottawa.
Ngo, on the other hand, touched on the fact that sometimes having so many levels of governance in one city isn't such a bad thing.
Wiggum Ngo, from the Byward Market, sees Ottawa many levels of governance to be a good thing.
The next session of Civics Boot Camp is being held on April 22.
The program has four weeks remaining.
To learn more about, please visit the homepage.
Citizens Academy Program Manager Catherine Laska speaking to the group
A group of participants working together