Note: This is the 4th column of David Goyette's "Backroom Briefing" for PTBOCanada. For more info on it, click here.
Q: David, Jeff and I would be interested in having your take on the working relationship between our offices. —Pat Melanson, Executive Assistant to Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal.
Goyette: For many decades, provincial governments have been enamoured with a description of municipal governments as “creatures of the provinces.” This phrase is technically accurate, in that cities like Peterborough are created by the Province of Ontario and are its constitutional responsibility: as a rule, the City’s functions, finance and governance all depend on provincial authorization.
However, the “creatures” reference has occasionally taken on an imperial and even paternalistic aren’t you a cute and fuzzy little creature tone, as if to offer to municipalities the constitutional caution that we the province brought you into this world and we the province can take you out.
Jeff Leal and his staff are different. MPP Leal had 18 years of experience as a Peterborough City Councillor. He’s seen both sides of the intergovernmental divide and his consistently respectful and collegial approach to City Hall is a terrific local asset. In other places, including a number where I have worked, some heavy duty barriers to the provincial-municipal relationship can easily get in the way: political partisanship; assumptions of superiority; competition for media; and exclusivity in scheduling. This is one aspect of life where competition does not produce superior results.
Here’s how the Office of the Mayor and the Office of the MPP typically work together:
*We are in contact with each other weekly.
*We share notice and details on emerging provincial and municipal issues.
*We share information on prospective investment/job creation opportunities.
*We receive assistance in terms of gaining access to and promoting causes with provincial Ministers.
*We receive notice and briefing on provincial funding announcements.
*We undertake high level event management such as the visit of the Prime Minister and the Premier for last fall’s airport opening.
*We direct and refer constituents to each other’s offices for assistance.
*We make arrangements for joint announcements, including those that take place in the Council Chamber.
Because we are relatively few in number and we share in the experience of life in a fishbowl, there is a camaraderie that binds all politicians and political staff. Without doubt, we have the most fascinating conversations with each other, encompassing not only public policy, but political personality, political strategy, and the risk and reward of decision making.
To be certain, the MPP does the business of the Province and the Mayor and Council do the business of the City. The fact that there are more factors that bring the two together than drive them apart is a testimony to a shared desire for the best in public service.
David Goyette is the Executive Assistant to Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett. For more on his Backroom Briefing column, click here. Email your burning questions for David about City Hall to firstname.lastname@example.org.