The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) is giving Nova Scotians an opportunity to do more than just complain about municipal services and property taxes. The Interim Municipal Report Card for Nova Scotia, titled Measuring Up . . . or Not, provides in one location the data that are collected and made available by the municipal and provincial governments. Unfortunately, an early finding in this exercise is that little information is available to answer the question of whether Nova Scotians are getting good value for money from their municipal governments.
This interim report card does not give ranks and grades for all 55 municipalities in Nova Scotia. However, it does give all Nova Scotians one-stop access to a range of information about where they live, what municipal services they have, how much those services cost, and how they compare with other municipalities.
AIMS released the Interim Municipal Report Card for New Brunswick last month, and will release the final reports for both provinces later this year.
This “interim” Report Card invites public feedback on how the data should be combined to grade municipal performance overall. It also marks the next step in AIMS’ efforts to publicize its standing invitation to all interested parties to suggest other measures and other data sources. We are pleased that in response to the New Brunswick Interim Municipal Report Card that was published in early May, officials from several New Brunswick communities, (e.g., Sackville, Port Elgin, and Fredericton) have contacted us to provide feedback and additional context for published statistics about their municipalities.
As with the New Brunswick report, the information in the Interim Municipal Report Card for Nova Scotia is based on provincial data that are publicly available. The statistics and data are not AIMS’ numbers, but rather the material collected and published by government.
The research for the project was made possible, in part, through the support of the Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce (NSCC). The “interim” label means that this is only the latest step on the road to the final Municipal Report Card to be issued later in 2008.
As AIMS Executive Vice President Charles Cirtwill puts it, “if you think there is something more important to count when judging municipalities, by all means, let us know.”
“However, we require three conditions to be met first: the information has to be relevant to all municipalities, not just yours; it has to be quantifiable, no guesses allowed; and it has to exist – a measure that would be nice to have, until it actually is collected is just that, nice to have.” Cirtwill adds that AIMS is happy to pass along to the province and the municipalities suggestions for better measures.
Speaking of nice to have, AIMS itself has identified a series of measures (available in other provinces and jurisdictions) that are not currently available in Nova Scotia. Most of these deal with what AIMS labels “effectiveness” measures as opposed to “efficiency” measures.
Cirtwill explains, “Efficiency gets at how much it costs you per capita, per police officer or per kilometre to supply certain services. Effectiveness speaks to how good that service is. If you spend more money per capita than any other municipal unit, yet you have more water main breaks, or slower police response times, or less frequent garbage pick-up, that questions your effectiveness.”
To read the Interim Municipal Report Card for Nova Scotia, click here.