UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The regional districts of British Columbia Nicholson, Theodore Joseph

Abstract

Regional planning is one of the functions most often affected by the dilemma of how to provide services and resolve conflicts that transcend municipal boundaries. Most existing solutions, while they accept the consensus that power should be decentralized, have limited applicability and the greatest need is for institutional innovations.-This report critically examines such an innovation — the regional districts introduced by British Columbia in 1965. The hew concept employs the identical institutional framework td provide regional services riot only in metropolitan alia non-metropolitan municipalities, but also in the unorganized areas which cover more than 98 percent of the province. A review of the literature led to the conclusion that before a province introduces regional institutions it should consider five key factors. These were: the selection of criteria to delimit administrative boundaries; participation by local governments and by citizens; coordination with other levels of government; the delegation of adequate powers; and the flexibility to adapt to different conditions. Regional districts were evaluated in this context. The inductive approach chosen to generate data documents the history of regional planning and regional districts in the province, then analyzes five of the districts in more detail, and finally solicits the views of the directors of the regional boards. The latter form a second tier or federation of local areas governed by locally elected representatives. The study concludes that the size or configuration of the districts is not always rational, that the provision for local participation is satisfactory but, with the exception of inter-municipal liason, the coordination of programs with provincial departments is not. Most of the power delegated to regional districts appears to be really a transfer of powers from local governments, with the exception of powers acquired by residents of unorganized areas. The flexibility of the new system was judged to be its outstanding feature. A conspicuous phenomenon was the speed with which regional districts were volutarily adopted. It was concluded the tactics employed by the province to "sell" the concept, together with the impetus provided by linking hospital financing to regional districts through complementary legislation were important contributing factors. The failure to provide any overall provincial planning policies with which the programs of the regional districts might have been integrated was perceived as a major weakness. A summary of legislation adopted by three other provinces is included to illustrate the diversity of potential solutions available within Canada's form of federation. The report does not consider regional economic planning, the property tax, the role of the planner, or liason between various levels of government are within its terms of reference, although brief comments on all of these are made on occasion.

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