UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A reevaluation of local government associations : a case study of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Goldsmith-Jones, Pamela J.


This paper concerns itself with the nature of local government associations in Canada. The small body of literature concerning local government associations which precedes this study confines itself to an evaluation of local government associations based on their performance in the intergovernmental arena. In other words, ability to lobby the provincial government is the yardstick by which local government associations have been measured in the past. As this body of literature maintains that local government associations are a type of interest group, it is appropriate to attempt to situate the behaviour of these associations within some kind of interest group framework. A review of interest group literature suggests that it is inappropriate to analyse and evaluate local government associations based on the single activity of lobbying the provincial government. Local government associations spend much of their time providing other services to their membership. As well, the provision of these services impacts their ability to lobby effectively. The interest group literature suggests that members join interest groups for a variety of reasons, only some of which are related to the pursuit of a collective good. The criticisms of Lionel Feldman and Katherine Graham in Bargaining for Cities: Municipalities and Intergovernmental Relations, An Assessment and in Peter G. Johnson's research on the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities are based on too narrow an interpretation of the activity of local government associations. This paper discusses their criticisms that local government associations are neither legitimate nor representative, that they act solely as agents of provincial governments, and that they allow themselves to be circumscribed by more senior levels of government. A case study of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) provides an overview of the organizational structure of this local government association, which suggests that the UBCM is an interest group whose main activities include lobbying the provincial government and providing other services to its membership. The presentation of survey data addresses itself primarily to Feldman/Graham's and Johnson's criticisms of local government associations, and concludes that when a broader range of local government association activity is taken into account, these criticisms are largely ill-founded.

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