In health care, education and taxation, New Brunswickers expect provincial performance to be benchmarked against standards in other provinces. So why don’t we demand the same of municipal services, such as water, sewerage, or snow and garbage removal – the local services residents depend on every day?
The point of such comparisons is to determine which practices produce the best results for the money invested, and to share the information, so others can advance.
Municipal voters in New Brunswick will soon be able to make easy, transparent comparisons among local services, thanks to a partnership between the New Brunswick Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. The two organizations are working together to extend AIMS’ municipal report card program to communities in this province.
The report card will compare the cost and thoroughness of local services such as water treatment, policing, fire fighting, garbage collection and snow removal. It will track municipal tax rates and budgeting, along with financial factors such as debt-per-household. The report will give residents of New Brunswick’s cities, towns, villages and local service districts grounds for making meaningful comparisons – the first step in identifying which service delivery models are more efficient.
The response from municipalities has been overwhelmingly positive. Most councils realize that local taxes and service standards are the top issues in their jurisdictions. This independent cross-comparison will allow New Brunswickers to see how local services measure up, stripped of the petty politics and regional rivalries that tend to fuel anecdotal comparisons.
AIMS hopes to issue an interim report at the end of April, just before the municipal elections. The first full comparison is due out in June, a couple of months ahead of the final report from the commission on local governance. Both should have a significant impact on public debate.
We hope the provincial government will see the value in this exercise. It’s the sort of information gathering the Department of Local Government should be engaging in – the kind that helps community councils make better decisions for the residents they serve.