NewPublic Management in Canadian Municipalities
Thereare numerous challenges that face municipalities in Canada and otherparts of the world. Dealing with these challenges has not been aneasy task. Majority of the challenges related to the management ofscarce resources against competing obligations. Some of the mostimportant challenges that face municipalities include inadequatefunding of municipal government functions, competing priorityspending, changing perceptions in the communities about the qualityof services, the role of municipal government in environmentalprotection and changes in population dynamics. The role of politicsin the delivery of services by the municipalities has been animportant issue in Canada. This has resulted into a debate on whethernew public management principles are still relevant in the modernCanadian municipalities (Collin et al, 2002). There have beenarguments that new public management principles are outdated and donot capture the changes in modern government such as the role oftechnology in management of public entities and government. However,the arguably modern technology based model of public administrationis based in the principles of new public management mainly incentive,disaggregation and introduction of competition (Dunleavy, 2006, Page,2005). This paper argued that to deal with the modern challenges inmajor municipalities in Canada, new public management principles willhave an important role to play.
Whencompared to the services they are expected to provide to thecitizens, there is no doubt that Canadian municipalities areunderfunded. Property taxes are the main sources of revenue formunicipal government. The portion of the total Canadian taxesallocated to the municipalities is relatively low, when compared tothe federal and provincial governments’ allocations. Despite therelatively low taxes allocations, the municipalities are expected toupgrade and maintain some of the basic utilities within theirjurisdiction. A good example is the electricity infrastructures.There is a need to repair and replace old electricity infrastructuresto correspond to modern standards of sustainability. On the otherhand, electricity distribution utilities are faced with decliningrevenues due to an increase in the number of alternative sources ofenergy and energy conservation programs. Changes in technology haveresulted into reduced of electricity demand by both commercial andresidential consumers in the short run, resulting into reducedrevenues. The likelihood of some consumers leaving the grid will havehuge impacts on the energy utilities revenues. This means that selfsustainability of energy utilities in many municipalities in Canadahas reduced significantly. Due to inadequate funding amidst the needto upgrade and modernize utilities and operations in themunicipalities, there is a need a different approach towardsmanagement of municipalities in Canada (Tindal et al, 2013). Theapplication of new public management principles and techniques iscritical.
Municipalitiesin Canada are local government and thus do not aim at making profits.The ultimate goal of municipal government is to provide high qualityservices to the resident efficiently and cost effectively. However,basic business principles can be applied in the management ofgovernments and their agencies. This led to the idea of new publicmanagement system (Winfield, 2000). This is a management system thatis used by governments and government agencies as well as businessorganizations. In business organization, the management aims atreducing the cost of operations and maximizing profits. Althoughmunicipal government in Canada do not aim at making profits, some ofthe principles and techniques used by business organizations toreduce the cost of operations can be applied in municipalities. Theprinciples of new public managements emphasize the use of conceptsfrom the private for profit sector in public sector management. Thus,new public management looks at both political and economic systems indifferent parts of the world that have had a positive impacts on thepolicies adopted by governments and the public sector in general toimprove the cost effectiveness and delivery of services (McLaughlin,2012).
Therelevance of new public management principles in Canadianmunicipalities is based on the role of these principles in dealingwith the challenges facing these municipalities. As stated earlier,the ultimate goal of any government, including municipal govern is toprovide quality services to the public cost effectively. New publicmanagement concept views the members of the society as its customers.This means that municipalities view the citizens in the same way abusiness organization would view the customers. On the other hand,public officers and administrators in the municipalities are comparedto managers in the private sector (Smith, 2014). However, themanagement of municipalities and governments cannot be void ofpolitical influence. Politics plays an important role inmunicipalities in Canada. This is another aspect that makes newpublic management principles relevant in the Canadian context. Thisis because these principles realign the role of professional managersin the public sectors with the political leadership. Since politicalleadership is a representative of the people, they are more seniorthat the professional managers. However, new public managementprinciples create a parallel relationship between politics and publicutilities management, which reduces negative political interference(Smith, 2014).
Thus,if a municipality adopts new public management principles andtechniques, public administrators and servers adopt the role ofmanagers. These managers have greater discretion and they haveincentive base motivations. This introduces business principles suchas focus on customer satisfaction, entrepreneurship, disaggregationand strict adherence to the policies or rules of the game (Williamset al, 2012). The higher discretion of professional managers in themanagement of utilities and other aspects of the municipal governmentresults into improved quality of services and increased efficiency inthe use of scarce resources. Another reasons why new publicmanagement principles are relevant to the Canadian municipalities isthe fact that they remain the most acceptable principles of publicadministration throughout the world. Similar jurisdictions in otherparts of the world such as the United States, United Kingdom,Australia and the Scandinavian countries have benefited from shiftinto these management principles. These jurisdictions have been ableto effectively deal with challenges, including some of the challengesfacing the municipalities in Canada today. However, the adoption ofthese principles requires progressive changes in policies decisionswhich will cumulatively result into the adoption of new publicmanagement principles (Christensen & Laegreid, 2011).
Specificprinciples of new public management have also remained relevant tothe modern challenges of public management. For example, hand onprofessional management of utilities such as electricity distributionand water utilities can significantly improve delivery of services. Additionally, hand on management will ensure that these utilities areself sustaining and are able to overcome future challenges.Introducing performance measures and standards that are found in theprivate sector will also deal with some of the challenges facingmunicipalities in Canada. This includes setting realistic goals andtargets and ensuring that they are met. Majority of challenges facingmunicipalities in Canada related to bureaucratic systems andprocedures. These systems are more focused on the input controlsrather that output controls. This has a direct impact on thesustainability of major utilities and functions of themunicipalities. Other aspects of new public management that are veryrelevant include promoting competition in the public sector andincreased focus on low cost and increased efficiency (McLaughlin,2012).
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