Reports & Positions

Policy & Management Briefs

As the current generation of senior municipal staff prepares to retire, some municipalities in Ontario are staring down a deficit of critical human infrastructure. When these experienced municipal professionals leave, they will take significant accumulated knowledge, expertise and experience with them. While this provides exciting opportunities for new professionals and new ideas to enter the sector, it also presents those same individuals with a steep learning curve. While each municipality bears ultimate responsibility for its own succession planning, we believe that this is an area where modest investments from the province could go a long way.  


 Big Data Policy

Terms like “big data”, “data lake” and “predictive analytics” are not new1 but they are being used more regularly in the municipal sector. Many believe these concepts can drive insight, efficiencies and improvements to the way municipalities deliver services by taking huge volumes of data, analyzing them and then deriving new insights. In this way, we equip machines to do the powerful thinking the human brain could not manage at this scale. This paper will explore the emergence of big data, the theory behind it and some of its potential benefits for local governments. It will also consider some of the inherent risks in using big data and provide some recommended approaches to mitigating or avoiding them.

 Continuously Improving Municipalities to Achieve Strategic Success

A strategic plan is not static, but should be a guiding document which sets out the vision and priorities of the municipality. In this way, it establishes a framework that the municipality’s operations can align with. Strategic success is often seen as being able to achieve the initiatives in the plan. However, equally important but often overlooked is the need to ensure service delivery yields value for money for taxpayers. This can be accomplished by linking daily operations with the strategic goals of the organization and developing mechanisms to ensure a continual improvement of organizational performance. One mechanism which can be implemented is establishing a continuous improvement approach to municipal service delivery. The adoption of such an approach can go a long way in making sure municipal managers are challenged to evaluate their services on a continuous basis. Such evaluations ensure services are being delivered in an efficient and effective manner, including achieving the business outcomes of the municipal service.

 Enterprise Risk Management: A Value-Added Proposition

The municipal sector faces complex challenges as it strives to provide top quality services with ever shrinking budgets. This puts a significant strain on service delivery and existing business processes. Rationalization is needed but how can it be achieved in an environment that demands effectiveness and efficiency yet often times has to operate in bureaucratic, high risk averse manner? The purpose of this policy brief is explore how an integrated risk management approach or Enterprise Risk Management [ERM] can provide a balance in managing these sometimes conflicting expectations. A simple yet effective ERM approach can be a value added proposition for the municipal sector. This policy brief will discuss the nature of risk, the value proposition, ERM preparedness including success factors, and the risk events municipalities typically face.

 Municipal Accountability and Transparency In The Wake Of Bill 8

Over the past decade the discourse around accountability and transparency has come to dominate many discussions about politics and public policy in Canada. For Ontario’s municipal sector this discourse crystallized in 2014 into a piece of legislation now commonly referred to as ‘Bill 8.’ Passed into law in December of 2014, Bill 8 (the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act) is a wide-ranging piece of legislation impacting hundreds of organizations in the broader public sector.

 Successful Staff/Council Relations: Old Lessons For New Challenges

Experience across Ontario has taught us that there are policies – basic principles and practices or ‘rules of the road’ – that will contribute significantly to municipal Councils getting the very best from the talent and energy of their municipal staff, at all levels.Some of those policies reflect basic common sense and human nature. Others reflect sound and balanced processes in public decision-making. This Policy Brief outlines a range of experience-based practices that can be adopted and implemented in municipalities – large and small, urban and rural, lower-tier and upper-tier/single-tier – to contribute to alignment and success.

 What Do CAOs Really Do?

The purpose of this policy brief is to discuss what municipal chief administrative officers (CAOs) really do on a day-to-day basis. Their duties go far beyond the sterile job descriptions that present in legal terms the usual bromides of providing advice, implementing decisions, and so forth. Of course, it is important to be aware of these basic requirements, but they do not tell us much about how a CAO really occupies her or his time.