The Role and Significance of the Chief Administrative Officer Position in Canadian Municipal Government: A CAMA “White Paper” on Ontario’s Strong Mayor Legislation and the Pivotal Role of the CAO in Providing Good Governance
Ontario’s Strong Mayor legislation has changed the underpinnings of the role of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in designated Ontario municipalities. New provisions have taken the power to appoint or fire a CAO from Council as a whole and granted it to the Mayor acting alone.
CAOs are employed and carry out their duties under detailed regimes articulated by provincial statute. Depending on your Province or Territory, the CAO has legislated powers related to planning, directing and organizing municipal affairs, the transparency and accountability of decisions and reporting, along with other powers provided by Council. These statutory provisions create a framework within the municipal administrative structure that helps them to do their job effectively.
When those rules change, the balance of responsibilities and powers between Mayors, Councillors and CAOs can be altered, with broader implications for the rest of the municipal workforce, and the public.
Good governance must both be done and be seen to be done. While the personal ethical and professional standards that individuals bring to the CAO role are critical to good governance, the rules governing their appointment and dismissal also matter to the perception of the integrity of the system. It makes a big difference if the CAO is perceived as “serving the Council,” or “the Mayor’s appointee.”
Recognizing the importance of the role and significance of the Chief Administrative Officer position in Canadian Municipal Government, CAMA prepared a “White Paper” on Ontario’s Strong Mayor Legislation and the Pivotal Role of the CAO in Providing Good Governance.
CAMA’s objective with this paper is to shine a light on the CAO profession and summarize its importance to the effective governance of Canadian municipalities. This paper:
• reviews the evolution of the CAO role,
• examines legislation that defines the CAO role in provincial statutes, and
• considers the effect that Ontario’s Strong Mayor legislation has and may have on the CAO in affected municipalities.
The CAO has been called “the lynchpin” between Mayors and Councils and the municipal public service. The function they perform is essential to the transmission of political direction to staff, and of impartial, professional advice to the elected council, a crucial role in hundreds of municipalities across Canada.
Overall, this Paper reinforces the benefits of an apolitical public service led by an effective CAO. It considers the potential negative effects of ‘Strong Mayor’ legislation and suggests measures to maintain good governance, administrative stability, and sound decision-making processes, including measures to ensure:
• neutrality and objectivity of the CAO and senior municipal officials
• clear accountability for the CAO, and
• the maintenance of public ethics in municipal government.
CAMA is committed to the need to preserve these attributes of our municipal government.
Federal Funding Programs for Municipal Infrastructure
The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) provided a Position Paper and a series of administrative recommendations as input on Federal Funding Programs for Municipal Infrastructure.
The Association's formal position paper was presented to Kelly Gillis, the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure & Communities on January 28th, 2022 by Jack Benzaquen, President of CAMA and the City Manager for the City of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, QC; Vincent Lalonde, CAMA Board Representative for British Columbia and City Manager for the City of Surrey, BC, and Mike Dolter, CAMA Board Representative for Nova Scotia & PEI and Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Truro, NS.
CAMA presented eighteen priorities, which were identified by the Association's members as having a high importance from an administrative standpoint. These priorities included such things as providing clear names and criteria for programs, involving municipalities in the development and design, no extraneous application criteria, the removal of "stacking" provisions, improved cash flows, flexibility, and long-term funding for some projects - just to name a few.
The following recommendations were also made by the Association:
- The Federal Gas Tax Program is a positive model, and its attributes should be used in all Federal Funding Programs directed at municipalities.
- An extension of the current Federal Gas Tax Program would be welcomed by communities.
- A new funding stream should be created dedicated to small municipalities.
- Working closely with the National and Provincial/Territorial Administrator Associations to determine funding priorities for Federal Funding Programs would be advantageous.
- More clarity needs to be provided around Federal Funding approval timelines.
CAMA is pleased to partner with its affiliate organizations from Australia (Local Government Professionals), New Zealand (Society of Local Government Managers) and the United Kingdom (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives) to present a broad range of local government issues in our respective countries. Across the world and beyond we all share the same victories and challenges. Please find below Discussion Papers outlining each country’s reaction to the following themes:
- The relationship of local governments with senior levels of government in their respective country and the main services that their local governments deliver.
- How local governments are funded (revenue sources) in comparison to senior levels of government.
- The top three key pressures that local governments have been experiencing over the last five years and why.
- The key pressures that local governments are likely to experience in the next five to ten years and what they have done (and will do) to address these demands.
- Canadian Association of Municipal administrators (CAMA)
- Local Government Professionals Australia
- New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM)
- Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE)