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To Cooperate, Collaborate, or Amalgamate?

by | Feb 12, 2020 | Blog Posts

Our 13 Ways team has done extensive cross-Canada research on municipal cooperation, regionalization, and amalgamation to better understand what works and what doesn’t. Our research, and that done by other accredited individuals and institutions, indicates municipalities that willingly work together are always more successful than those forced together. Even those forced to work together do better than communities that refuse to collaborate and who continue to see each other as enemies. 

This is why many provincial governments ask municipalities to join forces. They plead for more partnerships and, if necessary, incent cooperation with money meant to address infrastructure deficits. Still, it is a rare case when municipalities willingly find ways to work together. Too many hold onto historic grievances that cause them to see their neighbours as the competition or even the enemy. Some provincial governments force cooperation on municipalities as a last resort, seeing it as a better option than the continued slow decline of the many communities that perceive themselves as islands unto themselves. Forced cooperation has many faces from shared service agreements, to broader regional initiatives, to amalgamation. 

Failure to cooperate is no longer an option if you want your community to survive and grow. Elected officials, their administrations, and the public need to let go of any lingering resentments with neighbouring communities and learn to trust each other. You have a stark choice: work towards success together or fail separately.

Success requires cooperation. There are many models available that deliver enhanced cooperation and produce success. The greatest success comes to communities that chose their own model of cooperative governance. There seems to be a natural fear of amalgamation as a solution to enhanced cooperation even though evidence shows how well and how often it works. Perhaps it is because we prefer evolutionary change over revolutionary change even though the world around is changing at a revolutionary pace. That said, amalgamation is not the only option available and it is not always the best option for a group of communities. There are pros and cons to each of the many options. You must find the best fit for you. 

What is universal, however, is that doing nothing and seeing neighbouring communities as the enemy – to be feared and untrusted – is always the worst option. We should all wonder why we fight so vigorously with each other over municipal lines that were drawn by someone a century or more ago who lived in a far different world than we live in today. We need to work together to address our collective challenges and create new mutually beneficial opportunities. 

For the sake of the future of our communities and our children and their children, we must stop fighting demons that don’t exist. Instead, let’s focus on how our communities can grow together to realize their full potential.

We need to be building bridges, not fences.

Our communities are like people: no one is an island.

If you need help finding that pathway to success, give us a call. We know . . . There’s Always A Way.