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Municipal incorporation as a communicative process Tonn, Gerhard Rolf

Abstract

Urbanization in British Columbia has generally occurred by way of two processes. It has either occurred in relation to the establishment of a single enterprise community in the resource frontier, or, it has occurred in relation to the growth of established municipalities in which previously non urban areas surrounding established municipalities have become urbanized. The urbanization of previously rural areas has, in most cases, resulted in the need for basic municipal services as well as an institutional structure to administer these services and to provide a basic public decision-making structure in the community. Although in the case of single enterprise communities the Provincial Government has followed a definite policy in the implementation of an institutional structure in these communities, no definite policy has been achieved for the implementation of such a structure in what have become known as peripheral communities. These communities have been permitted to follow a number of alternate mechanisms for the provision and administration of services although incorporation under the Municipal Act or the Water Act has generally been viewed by these communities as the only viable mechanism for (i) the provision and administration of services and (ii) the implementation of a public decision making structure in the community. The investigation of one community's attempt to incorporate under both the Municipal Act and the Water Act revealed that the present incorporation process as it is presented in the Municipal Act and as it is prescribed by the Water Rights Branch is not as effective as it might be. This ineffectiveness was found to derive from two sources. The first of these sources was found to be the inflexibility of the corporate forms permitted under both the Municipal Act and the Water Act. In terms of the incorporation process as outlined in the Municipal Act it was found that the population criteria as well as obligations which are established for each municipal form deterred communities from assuming a local government structure for the reason that although communities had a sufficient population level, they were unable to financially support a local government structure of the type outlined in the Municipal Act. In terms of the incorporation process for water improvement districts a similar inflexibility was discerned although this inflexibility did not derive from the Water Act per se but, resulted from the interpretation of the Water Act by the Water Rights Branch and the Department of Municipal Affairs. These two agencies viewed water improvement districts as corporate bodies with only limited objects and powers. Consequently, communities wishing to incorporate under the Water Act for the exercise of a number of objects are deterred from assuming the status of water Improvement district. A second reason for the ineffectiveness of the incorporation process was found to be the lack of communication between the agencies entrusted with the incorporation process and the communities wishing to incorporate. It was found that this lack of communication resulted in (i) the failure of the agencies to perceive the institutional needs of these communities and (ii) the failure of communities to meet standard and act according to established procedures. To remedy the deficiencies of the present incorporation process, it is proposed that the incorporation process be made a "communicative" process which entails basically a three phase process. In the first phase known as the initiation phase, the community approaches the relevant agency and makes evident its need for a local government structure. In the second phase, known as the design phase, the community and the agency engage in a process of evolving a design which would best suit the institutional needs of the community. In the third phase, known as the incorporation phase, the incorporation of the community takes place.

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