Term limits for municipal council members should be debated as to its merits and flaws. In the first of three articles, Leo F. Longo stops short of making a recommendation, and instead provides a historical summary of changes to term limits in Ontario. If we take instead the view of the Association of Municipalities in Ontario (AMO), there may be a clear case to be made that there would be measured public support for legislating four-year terms. 
Initially, council members were only elected for a single-year term, changing in Ontario in 1906 to permit a two-year term. This again was changed in 1944 to allow a staggered election whereby half the council members’ term would expire. At this time, there was still a heavy preference or preponderance for single-year terms, and there was no province-wide cohesion on this issue until 1972 with the Municipal Elections Act when two-year terms were standardized across the province. By 1982, some municipalities moved to three-year terms, while most remained with the 1972 legislation until 2006 when four-year terms were introduced.
Benefits of moving to longer terms include:
Sufficient time to develop and implement an agenda, and to obtain public feedback to evaluate its effectiveness. This prevents too much “mission creep” or discontinuity of purpose.
Drawbacks would include:
* Voters being “stuck” with an ineffective council that cannot generate consensus around an agenda. This is especially the case in ward-centric municipalities that have been amalgamated, and lack a municipality-wide view.
Given that municipal councils are not organized political parties, this may pose a difficulty in providing “follow-through and continuity [and so] a turnover of councillors following an election can bring a marked break in momentum or shift in emphasis.”
Sources and Notes
 In Longo, L. (2014). Term Limits for Municipal Council Members: Part One: Length of Council Terms. Municipal World, April: 13-15. It should be noted that the AMO background paper found a discrepancy between respondents on this question, pending if they were rural or urban residents. Also, four-year term limits were established as of 2006.
Review and Comments on Slack and Bird, "Does Amalgamation Strengthen the Financial Viability of Local Government?"
The Harris era restructuring that led to widespread amalgamation of municipalities and school boards, as well as downloading ever more service responsibilities, was seen by the provincial government of the day as a silver bullet for achieving significant cost-savings. This would be achieved by “reaping economies of scale” and coordinating “service delivery across local boundaries.” Bound up in these assumptions was a significant adoption of neoliberal inspired concepts such as New Public Management, and down-shift responsibilization . In their report , Slack and Bird evaluate what, if any, cost-savings were achieved due to amalgamation, with a specific focus on Toronto as a case study.
The abrupt municipal amalgamation exercise reduced the number of municipalities from 815 in 1995 to 447 in 2001, which also significantly reduced the number of councillors. It should be noted that cost-savings on this alone would be fairly negligible with respect to the overall municipal budget compared to other budget items such as transportation, protection, and the provision of social services. The Harris Government sought to encourage entrepreneurial opportunities for municipalities for alternative service delivery via the Building the Ontario Public Service for the Future. 
These costs, however, were not fully realized, or were masked by other factors such as property tax reform and the LSR. Other additional costs included:
There is still dispute over whether or not significant cost savings were achieved as a result of the drastic restructuring, or if savings were offset by new costs such as those associated with transitioning to a new merged municipality, the increased burden of additional service delivery (lightened somewhat by the subsequent provincial government), and the effects of property tax reform. Where the authors seem to be in agreement is in the less tangible costs, such as more fragmentation of community identity in the larger municipalities, and decreased civic engagement.
Sources and Notes:
 Slack, E. and Richard Bird (2013). Does Municipal Amalgamation Strengthen the Financial Viability of Local Government? A Canadian Example
 The term is referenced in the governmentality literature of the mid-1990s. See Bourdieu, P. (1999). The abdication of the state In P. Bourdieu (Ed.), The weight of the world: Social suffering in contemporary society: 181-8. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; Peck, Jamie and Adam Tickell (2002). Neoliberalizing Space. Antipode 34 (3): 380-404. In a vast majority of applications of responsibilization, this is brought about through a process of market-based rationalization and a belief in disempowering liberal welfare state models of governance.
 Burak, R. (1997). Building Ontario Public Service for the Future: A Framework for Action. Ontario. Management Board of Cabinet. Secretariat. Toronto.
The main thrust of Pappert’s article  is that a wholesale shift is required in how we understand and operate at the municipal level given the pressures of change from technological innovations, demographic shift, the networked economy, and the widespread adoption of social media. Meanwhile, despite increasing dependence on government, there is a correlative increasing distrust in elected officials and administration that may be tied to the “old way of doing business.” Transformation, argues Pappert, must be total and not simply ad hoc revisions.
It is only by proactively anticipating and embracing change that municipal leadership will still remain viable and responsive to the changing needs and demands of the citizenry. Some of these changes may include demonopolizing information and aiming for more transparency while ensuring appropriate narrative context, emphasis on team-based leadership and collaboration, showing the courage to retire no longer operable practices, the responsibility of municipal leaders to keep apprised of what is being done in other municipalities, and to adopt a proactive stance on long-range planning.
In particular, an emphasis on team-based leadership and collaboration, as well as retiring older notions and practices that are no longer applicable in the current context. Inspiring courage is key, and part of the way of mitigating some of the less desirable outcomes is to change the narrative so that failure is viewed as a learning experience. Also, by taking collective ownership of a problem, this reinforces the team-based aspect of leadership already referenced.
Municipalities are no stranger to change, be it the transition to the early reformist movement that precipitated the creation of special purpose bodies and an attempt to focus on administrative function rather than representative roles, the postwar challenges with increasing urbanization and land planning, the citizen demand for more engagement during the 1960s, the experiments in regional government in the 1970s, reform of the county structure in the 1980s, up through the drastic effects of the Harris-era amalgamations. At times, the change is gradual, whereas at other times it is painfully abrupt. Anticipating change is indeed important, but it is also important to identify the source of those changes, and to determine what resources and means (financial, legal, intergovernmental, etc) are at the disposal of the municipality to contend with change. There is very little a municipality can do to prevent or accelerate change that is externally sourced - such as a natural disaster, legislative changes by the province, the oscillations of the global market, etc. It can, however, adapt internal policies that can at least be ready and responsive to changes, whether positive, negative, or simply a change of state (such as the adoption of social media). Good collegial and collaborative attitudes will better prevail in the face of such changes than to remain ossified in no longer workable practices or in cleaving to a silo mentality.
 Pappert, Ann. (2014).“Transformation in Local Government.” Municipal World. 124.10: 21-3.
Comments and Reflections on Zack Taylor's Article "If Different, Then Why?: Explaining the Divergent Political Development of Canadian and American Local Governance"
Taylor’s article  provides us with a more detailed historical analysis of how the reform movement - as described in the MAP textbook - sought to disempower local councils in favour of business interests, and compares the degrees of respective autonomy between the US and Canada. As the textbook makes clear, rapid urbanization and industrialization also saw an increase in necessary services, such as roads, garbage collection, parks and recreation, etc. Vocal business interests were becoming increasingly frustrated with the structural impediments of municipal governments, particularly with respect to councils’ representative role. In point of fact, businesses desired to depoliticize local government and narrow its role to administrative functions aided in part by specialized professionals - a view of local government that seems to be coming back into favour. Some of these reforms resulted in movements to abolish wards, the creation of a strong executive in the form of a Board of Control, the creation of a “beefed up” administrative head such as a city manager, and the establishment of various boards and commissions that would reduce the influence of councillors on key decisions with respect to service delivery needs. Such reforms would come under the auspices of lessening legislative burden by delegating authority in key areas, especially in the face of the increasing complexity of service demands arising from more urbanization.
Institutions embody certain structural assumptions in their practices of power and the distribution or delegation of authority, whereby the existing structure of federalism and provincial regulation would strongly define roles, rules, and responsibilities of municipalities, thus also presenting constraints upon - and conflict with - ideas, interests and innovation. It is the institutions that prescribe the affordances, and centralized regulatory mechanisms can stifle innovation.
One historical question of note Taylor addresses is why Canadian municipalities did not adopt the “home rule” model of governance as found south of the border. It should be noted that home rule has its merits and flaws; on one hand, there is more freedom to pursue initiatives without upper government interference, but on the other hand it has been shown to further exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities as well as unequal delivery of services.
Ultimately, Taylor’s article tells the story of the powerful reform movement and the state of autonomy (or lack thereof) played out in the early 20th century in Canada. The drive to reduce municipal councils to a simply administrative role, and the increasing expenditures to meet service demands, has returned in a new garb. What remains to be seen is if there were also be a resurgence in the demand from citizens to restore the representative aspect, as happened in the 1960s. Local government scholars have already pointed out the increase in interest for improving civic engagement and citizen participation in municipal affairs, and it is possible that increased use of social media with its built in affordances of instant communication, large social graph, and decentralized multilateral discussion format, may precipitate change in this direction. It also remains to be seen if provincial governments will repeat how they responded to the increasing service cost burden of municipalities, or if a new and more equitable deal can be brokered (such as changing the tax formula, or the distribution of unconditional grants). Such change, however, seems unlikely, and commercial interests may prevail a while longer.
Sources and notes
 Taylor, Zack. (2014). "If Different, then Why? Explaining the Divergent Political Development of Canadian and American Local Governance." International Journal Of Canadian Studies 49: 53-79.
 Taylor adopts an approach similar to that of Thorstein Veblen’s; namely, the strong role institutions play in determining culture. In Veblen’s view, institutions and their practices are the source of change or invariance in cultural and technological forms (Veblen’s use of technology is more aligned with the 19th century German term Technik, which strongly favours technology as engineering).
Local governments are facing critical challenges with respect to internal and external change. Although the Ontario Provincial Government has uploaded some of the services that were downloaded unto municipalities during the Harris years via the LSR exercise, municipalities are still tasked with a very wide range of service delivery responsibilities in the face of increasing resident expectations, aging population, infrastructural deficit, and economic volatility.
Exacerbating these challenges would be some degree of confusion as to “who does what,” sub-optimal means of communication whereby municipal leaders are not vocalizing their challenges effectively (to residents and upper levels of government), and an ill-suited property taxation system that does not afford the revenue-generation flexibility municipalities require to meet budgetary needs in providing sufficient service delivery or making the necessary capital expenditures to repair or build new infrastructure, replace aging fleets and facilities, and upgrading equipment (just to name a few).
Hume’s article takes aim specifically at the need for taxation reform that would better acknowledge the inequality of taxation collection between different levels of government and the services provided. In essence, a revisiting of the revenue sharing model between different levels of government is required, especially in light of infrastructure needs. Although Hume does not specify this in his article, even maintaining an existing sufficient level of physical infrastructure in a municipality will invariably lead to higher costs per fiscal year given such factors as labour and material costs alone. During the period extending from the Rae Government’s “fiscal neutrality” exericse, through the Harris Government LSR, service swaps were arguably unequal as they took a discrete fiscal moment in time with respect to costs as though comparable between services such as road maintenance and social assistance. In reality, such costs fluctuate over time (social assistance is contingent upon such factors as unemployment rates that may increase or decrease costs, while the cost of maintaining roads shows a consistent increase over time).
Hume warns against the consequences of “doing more with less,” which is part of the neoliberal model of downloading risk and responsibilization to local actors and individuals (cf. the work of David Harvey, Peck & Tickell. and Christian Fuchs et al). Hume rightly points out that there are limits to “doing more with less” as there may come a point when the only means by which to meet core service delivery targets is to engage in a drastic cost-cutting exercise that may reduce or remove valued services from a community. This accelerates budgetary unsustainability and community dissatisfaction.
Hume also references shared responsibility as part of a broader alternative framework for service delivery, and such activities have been in the offing if we consider PPP (public-private partnerships) whereby services are contracted out to private companies, or efforts such as ceding responsibility to service clubs, non-profit organizations, etc., that may take on (for example) the responsibilities of maintaining a swimming pool or community centre. Shared services have emerged between municipalities: e.g., the sharing of a Fire Chief in the municipalities of Bluewater and Central Huron). It should be noted that there may be issues in pursuing PPPs, especially given that private companies are motivated by profit rather than the public interest, and that accountability to the public may be lower. Also, a problem with ceding more responsibilities to service clubs - inasmuch as this depends on a strong social capital network of voluntarism - would be that service burdens might become unsustainable. And, finally, a problem with shared roles might include such issues as conflict of interest between municipalities being served by the same individual.
Hume points to improvements in IT as a potential tool for developing more cost-efficient methods for service delivery. His view demonstrates a complicity in proselytizing globalization and the integration of information technologies without necessarily addressing some of the problems associated with said integration (for example, streaming Council meetings does not necessarily improve transparency, accountability, or even citizen engagement; the use of social media also contains inherent problems of attention fragmentation and a reliance on brevity over substance, if not “reactive” rather than reflective forms of engagement). Technological change is not a necessary and sufficient condition to the development of creative, dynamic communities any more than a hammer is the necessary and sufficient condition for building a house. It should be noted that, from the perspective of political economy, various aspects of globalization and information society should be properly scrutinized rather than simply adopted without more critical inquiry.
Place-making also features in this article, and is tied to notions of grassroots community development, mixed-use housing, and eco-friendly spaces. Each of these items requires a significant level of detail and exploration that the spatial constraints of the article does not afford. This can be especially problematic for smaller municipalities that may have more socioeconomic homogeneity. and where the NIMBYism of the urban reform movement may be more vocally opposed to such policies as the provision of more affordable housing or public transit.
Summarily, Hume itemizes many of the challenges many municipalities are intimately familiar with, and he subsequently transmutes these into potential opportunities if certain conditions are met such as property tax reform for fairer revenue sharing, cultivating more shared services partnerships, mixed-use housing, and effective IT integration. In such a way, Hume attempts to demonstrate options for creating opportunities out of challenges. What Hume does not make clear is that a one size fits all approach may not suit every municipality, and that adjustments to aspects of scale and pace of transformation must be tailored to the individual socioeconomic conditions of each respective municipality, cognizant of their capacity for change (personnel, equipment, etc).
The 2012 FCM Report paints a slightly improving picture with respect to municipalities after some decades of decline in key areas that contributed to a fiscal imbalance between responsibilities and resources. Of note, although there has been some improvement with regards to property taxes as a proportion of own-source revenues in municipal budgets since 2004 (decreasing from ~53% to 1995 levels of just under 50%), the proportion of general-purpose grants has decreased while specific-purpose have increased (the latter are conditional or earmarked funds from the Province for specific projects). And, although there has been some improvement with respect to Gas Tax transfer funds, and the Building Canada Fund (BCF), there are still parlous shortfalls precipitated by overall decline of intergovernmental transfers as proportion of municipal budgets, and the regressive property tax model that precipitates less capital and expenditure revenue for critical infrastructure repairs and local service delivery. It should also be noted that, despite some reversals by the provincial Liberal government in uploading services that were downloaded during the Harris era’s LSR exercise, the fiscal imbalance still remains (albeit less bleak). Also, the cost of municipal policing and fire protection has seen an increase, which for some small and rural municipalities, can prove particularly challenging and which can represent the highest costs in the annual budget. In response to budgetary challenges, some municipalities have sought creative and alternative ways of increasing own-source revenues such as through user fees, voluntary and involuntary hotel taxes, signage fees and licensing, and a host of other taxation tools within the jurisdiction of municipalities.
Federal investment has been seen as a key to halting or reversing infrastructural decline. However, despite initial positives in this area, these transfers have been drying up as agreements expire and the federal government reallocates its funding priorities. Federal transfer agreements concerning the Building Canada Fund (BCF), HST rebate, and those concerning public transportation capital and affordable housing have all expired, leaving only the Permanent Gas Tax Fund in place. Speaking with a collective voice and inaugurating advocacy groups such as the FCM has gone some length in attempting to establish better intergovernmental relations between municipalities and the federal government, with some notable successes amidst some lagging support. However, as FCM membership continues to grow and speak collectively in advocating for communities large and small, this has resulted in demonstrable changes in federal policy. That being said, there is much more to do to improve the federal-municipal relationship given the economic, environmental, social, and demographic realities local governments face.
The delegation of responsibilities has always been a key component - and sometimes a source of contention - with respect to the jurisdictional powers of each level of government, in addition to attendant bodies under provincial mandate (such as school boards, various agencies, and commissions). We see here reflected in the FCM report the changing nature of which levels of government ought to take responsibility for certain services, and how these may be supported (sometimes through grants, policies, or partnerships). As local government is subordinate to the upper levels of government, an abrupt change in provincial policy can impact certain municipalities more than others, for good or ill. I can here provide four examples: 1. Changes in food security and safety policies enforced by the local health unit can hinder small local food growers and producers as requirements may be set at a level that is not financially feasible to support a locally sourced agricultural enterprise; 2. Some municipalities that operate as a single tier may have more affordable access to OPP services, whereas other municipalities may pay higher rates for police services. 3. The province’s Green Energy provisions for additional wind farms has been a contentious issue among many rural residents, some of whom claim either health issues or lowered property value as a result. Despite some vocal opposition, municipal governments are not in a position to change the provincial goal for erecting more wind turbines to generate more renewable energy. 4. Winter maintenance of arterial highways that come under provincial jurisdiction was shown to lack oversight, possibly resulting in more winter-related driving accidents. The Ministry of Transportation has since revised their public tender practices, but previously it was shown that contracts were issued to the lowest bidder, and very little oversight was maintained to ensure the successful contractor had sufficient capacity in vehicles or use of de-icing fluid. Why this can impact a municipality might be on account that, pending geographic placement, provincial highways are seen as an economic life line.
We may remark that, as municipal autonomy in adjusting taxation to levels that would better generate revenue are constrained by the province, it would seem that municipal governments are by circumstance returning to a model of governance attempted in the early 20th century, and thus ever more emphasis is placed on the administrative at the expense of the representative role of councils. Without additional revenue supports, or changes to the Municipal Act that would benefit municipalities, many councils are left with the prospect of budgets driving policy, instead of the other way around. When this occurs, civic engagement and having the flexibility to respond to shifting needs of a community suffers.
The fiscal imbalance still remains despite some minor improvements. Municipalities face unprecedented challenges, be it the rising costs of service delivery; skilled personnel shortage amidst a wave of retirements or souring relations between councils, management, and staff; immigration settlement patterns; perennial problems associated with rapid urbanization and development; crumbling infrastructure and forced deferment of repairs due to financial shortfalls; declining population in rural and sparsely populated municipalities; regressive property taxation laws; climate change; and the still enduring and occasionally fractious legacy of the Harris-era amalgamations.