Upcoming webinar:
Join us for our upcoming webinar on Tools for Fair Taxation with economist and CCPA research associate Hugh Mackenzie. The webinar will take place October 29 from 1:30-2:30 EST. Registration and more information is available here.

Publications and multimedia:
We are very pleased to highlight our most recent publications:



A Canadian Energy Strategy: Why should local governments care discusses Canada's energy future and the need for a new national approach to energy. Local governments have a key stake in ensuring stable, sustainable, and affordable energy, and have an important role to play in the national energy discussion. Canadian municipalities struggling with climate change and crumbling infrastructure should demand a national energy strategy based on clean, renewable energy, not the exploitation of fossil fuels. 
Read the full article here.



Multi-Material BC and Local Governments examines the implementation of British Columbia's new recycling system, and the ramifications for local governments. The provincial government is asking municipalities to choose between continuing their own curbside collection or turning it over to an industry group. While shifting responsibility for collecting and recycling packaging waste to industry seems to make sense, many municipalities are refusing to participate because they fear it will increase the overall cost to taxpayers.
See an op-ed by Columbia Institute Executive Director Charley Beresford, and reporting in the Vancouver Sun, the Globe and Mail, and The Tyee.



In collaboration with the Sierra Club of BCMining: The Challenge for BC Local Governments is the Columbia Institute's most recent research paper. Examining emerging local government issues resulting from BC's mining boom. Mining operations offer significant opportunities for communities, bringing great potential for jobs, development, and growth. On the other hand, mining can affect communities in adverse ways, from compromising drinking water and air quality to reducing property values. Current mining legislation in BC does not allow local governments to be involved in decision-making on major resource projects, even when these projects may impact residents' quality of life and may require budgetary expenditures to mitigate.

Who We Are
The Centre for Civic Governance at Columbia Institute works to strengthen Canadian communities and enhance the public good through analyzing issues, sharing best practices, and providing tools for locally elected leaders working to build inclusive, sustainable communities. 

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FALL 2013

Municipalities facing huge costs after summer disasters
Costs from this past summer's natural disasters continue to mount. Toronto's July flood event is expected to cost the city at least $65 million, with total property damage at over $850 million. Estimates are ongoing. Toronto has a $30 million contingency fund for such expenses. In Calgary, latest estimates for flood reconstruction are over $5 billion, though who is responsible for covering these costs is yet to be determined. As we expect this type of event to increase, Canadian municipalities might be wise to increase contingency funds. Natural disasters and climate change will not respect national and international boundaries, so adequate responses will require international cooperation. Here are some interesting words from Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer on the United States' inadequate response to climate change adaptation.

UBCM keynote: Stephen Lewis on climate change
Stephen Lewis, C.C., focused on the pressing need for climate change action in his keynote address at the Union of BC Municipalities conference last month. Lewis offered praise for BC's climate action charter, and action taken by municipalities such as Richmond, which recently passed a clean energy resolution calling on all levels of government to develop a national energy strategy. He called on communities to raise awareness on climate issues and push for alternative energy. Read the Centre for Civic Governance paper on a national energy strategy here.

Who pays for recycling?
Top of the agenda at the recent Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual meeting was the provincial effort to reform recycling collection. Many municipalities are reluctant to participate due to concerns that the new system will lead to poorer outcomes and higher costs for taxpayers.  Read the Centre for Civic Governance report here for background information.

Local governments call for new mining legislation
Also at the UBCM meetings, municipalities called on the province to update mining regulations. Towns adjacent to new mining developments are concerned that BC's legislation is out of date, and allows mines too much autonomy, threatening health and well-being of residents. Read the Centre for Civic Governance/Sierra Club report here.

Space for transgender youth in Canadian schools
Two recent stories on sensible schoolboards and the struggles and triumphs of transgender youth in Canada  deserve to be highlighted. In Edmonton, a young boy, born genetically female, happily started grade seven with supportive teachers, administrators, and classmates. In 2011 the Edmonton School Board became the first in Alberta to develop policy to protect gay, lesbian, and transgender students and staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In Comox, 10-year old Harriette Cunningham is fighting to have the gender description on her passport changed. In British Columbia, sex designation cannot be changed on identification documents until after sex reassignment surgery; Harriette argues that her gender identity is separate from a decision to have surgery. 

Student trustees
The Edmonton School Board will also become the first in Alberta to elect a student representative in 2014/2015. School districts across Ontario already include student representatives, as does the Vancouver School Board. Edmonton's student rep will not vote, but will attend and participate in school board meetings.


Jobs versus environment?
A new understanding is emerging about environmentalism and employment. For decades, we have heard that environmentalists kill jobs. New data and studies show that in fact sensible environmental policy can lead to job growth. See this report from BlueGreen Canada on the employment ramifications of Ontario's energy conservation efforts, and the Toronto Star's take here.
 
Wages stagnate for North American workers
Numerous recent studies (Broadbent Institute, Economic Policy Institute) indicate tell us that while worker productivity is increasing, wages are stagnating. Canadians (and workers in many countries) are working longer, harder hours, and taking home less. The social costs are significant: Canadians are carrying more debt than ever and struggling with housing costs, and lineups at foodbanks are growing. Big box stores take much criticism for attacking workers' rights and aggressively keeping wages low, and two American jurisdictions have are taking action by introducing living wage legislation. Washington DC city councillors adopted a bill requiring large retailers to pay employees a living wage, higher than the prevailing minimum wage, while Seattle is developing similar policy

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