New Brunswickers will soon be better able to judge the quality and effectiveness of the services offered by their local municipality thanks to a new report card.
The Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies is expanding its municipal report card program into New Brunswick thanks to a partnership with the New Brunswick Chamber of Commerce.
The report card will allow citizens of different towns and cities to compare the quality of service, municipal taxes and budgets in their respective municipalities.
Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Halifax think tank, said the report card is designed to help cities, towns, villages and local service districts discover and share ideas. This is about trying to find the best practices in the New Brunswick municipal environment that allows people to get better value for their money, he said.
“(Using the report) You’ll be able to say ‘This municipal unit seems to be able to deliver water services, for example, with a minimum number of water main breaks over a year, what is it that they’re doing well that we are not’,” said Cirtwill.
It’ll be things like number of police officers, number of firefighters and the cost to deliver those services. The report card will be built using information such as the budgets from the different municipalities, he said, and will be easy for the average person to understand.
Cirtwill said his institute hopes to have the full report cards done by June, several months in advance of a report into municipal and local government commissioned by the provincial government.
“We’re hoping we’ll be able to release an interim report card at the end of April in advance of the municipal elections.”
Paul O’Driscoll, chairman of the New Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, said the business lobby group was eager to support the municipal report card project.
“It’s going to make apples to apples comparisons on the cost of delivering policing, water service, garbage collection, snow removal, debt per household, all those great things so it would be easy to compare say Bathurst to say Woodstock,” he said.
The whole idea here is if one municipality or local service district is doing better, then they’ll hopefully learn from each other, he said.
Cirtwill said he was pleased with how many municipalities in the province are open to the idea of the report card.
Donald Savoie, chair of public administration and governance at the Université de Moncton, said the report cards are a great idea. Savoie suggested financial comparisons such has municipal costs measured on a per capita basis would be useful.
“There’s a variety of ways you could do it,” he said.
“AIMS has done some work, with some success I may add, on school report cards and has developed the capacity to do that kind of work and it’s excellent for them and good for us.”