Getting to Know You: IOG and Bridging the Federal-Municipal Divide

4 minute read

Building on the success of its flagship Executive Leadership Program (ELP), which is now accepting registrations for its 25th cohort, the IOG has graduated its first cohort in the new ELP on Municipal Intergovernmental Relations.

“We’ve seen an increase in interactions between all orders of government in recent years,” says IOG Vice President Brad Graham, who is responsible for the new Municipal ELP stream, “particularly between the federal government and municipalities as priorities converge in areas such as climate change, infrastructure, transit, immigration, housing and innovation.”

The new ELP on Municipal Intergovernmental Relations is specifically designed to support senior municipal leaders in this new and evolving environment.

Relationships between the federal government and the provinces are well developed and understood, as is the relationship between provinces and municipalities. “There is not, however, a well-established relationship between the federal and municipal orders of government,” says Graham. “We are now in a time when such interactions are increasing in frequency, magnitude and importance. At the same time, relationships between municipalities and provinces are also changing as their roles and responsibilities continue to evolve.”

While larger cities such as Toronto are building an intergovernmental capacity, most municipalities generally do not have dedicated resources to specifically deal with other orders of government. Municipalities do have sophisticated program relationships with provinces, in areas such as planning, public health, policing and housing, to name a few. However, there is an appreciation by municipalities that to be more effective, they require a more strategic and ongoing intergovernmental capacity.

Enter the IOG and its Municipal ELP. The objectives of the program are to:

  • Understand “why” the federal government and province s operate in this new environment (pressures, accountabilities, demands, priorities);
  • Understand “how” the federal government and provinces function;
  • Develop tangible strategies and tools to deal more effectively with other orders of government; and
  • Learn from interactive discussions based on real issues.

During its unique six-day program in January and February, with sessions in Toronto and Ottawa, participants discussed why municipal intergovernmental relations are becoming more important and how they can better align their resources to be effective. While the program was “ruthlessly pragmatic,” according to Graham, there was a lot of time spent understanding the different cultures of the orders of government, their areas of jurisdiction, and how different styles of decision-making affect behavior and policy, varying accountabilities and overall motivations.

Speakers included senior officials from both the Ontario Government and the Government of Canada, as well as noted academics and practitioners. Kicking off the program in Toronto was an interactive panel featuring Senator Tony Dean, Scott Thompson, CEO of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), and David Szwarc, past Chief Administrative Officer of Peel Region, all of whom talked about the changing world of federal, provincial and municipal relations.

“Each of our speakers noted that the landscape is indeed shifting, stressing that there must be a better understanding of the cultures and priorities between orders of government, as well as the need to build new relationships and mechanisms to work better together,” says Graham. “They re-enforced the message that Canadians aren’t as concerned about which government provides the service as they are about receiving good services.”

The middle part of the program was delivered in Ottawa where participants heard from senior federal public servants such as Infrastructure Canada Deputy Minister Kelly Gillis and Treasury Board Secretary Peter Wallace who gave their perspectives on the current relationship between the federal and municipal orders of government.

“Both recognized the importance of municipal governments and candidly admitted that as this emerging partnership grows, so too must the federal government’s understanding of the municipal world,” notes Graham.

Secretary Wallace spoke from a truly unique perspective, having served as Deputy and Secretary of Cabinet for Ontario, as well as Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Toronto. Now as Secretary of the Treasury Board for the Canadian Government, few have his direct knowledge and insight into the workings of the three orders of government.

Another highlight of the Ottawa portion was a dinner sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). Brock Carlton, CEO, gave his views on the historical relations, the current state of affairs, and what to expect for the future. Participants also met with J. Greg Peters, M.V.O., Usher of the Black Rod, who conducted what Graham calls “quite an eloquent” tour of the Senate of Canada Building, the Senate’s temporary home.

The final sessions of the program saw a return to Toronto with a focus on the future and how participants can build their learning and discussions into their responsibilities, as well as how they can improve their municipality’s capacity and effectiveness.

“As part of the program, all participants recorded ’10 Tangible Things’ from throughout the sessions that they would adopt either professionally or for their organizations on their return,” says Graham, adding “When it came time for our group discussions, needless to say ‘10’ tangible things became 20 or 25 concrete and well-conceived concrete actions.”

IOG’s Municipal ELP is a unique opportunity for senior municipal leaders to hear from senior public servants, practitioners, academics and other experts. The sessions are designed to challenge current thinking, but most of all, the program provides tangible strategies to build intergovernmental capacity and perspective.

The IOG will be launching our second Cohort as follows:

Toronto-Ottawa Format

The format will have participants in a two-day session in Toronto, a two-day session in Ottawa, and then a final two-day session in Toronto.

April 27th - 28th, 2020
The Yorkville Conference Centre 2nd Floor
150 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario

May 25th - 26th, 2020
The Institute on Governance
60 George Street, Suite 203
Ottawa, Ontario

June 22nd - 23rd, 2020
The Yorkville Conference Centre 2nd Floor
150 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario

For further information and to enroll please visit here:

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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