In the late-capitalist era during the late twentieth century restructuring of Canada's municipalities toward a new model of intergovernmental alliances, known as 'city-regional' governance, the importance of Public Choice as praxis to reconfiguration of the nation's market relations was asserted by urban planning and political theorists interested in the impetus and affects of the what became known as the Consolidation Movement. A decade of exposure to James Lightbody's (1999-2009) work on the topic, set the format for Canadian engagement in the larger theoretical public choice debate, and encourages both the use of Clarence Stone's urban regime model, as well as scholarly comparison with other North American proponents of this school of thought like McAllister (2005), Sancton (2000), and Tullock (1994).
Canada's commercial community is described as constituent leadership at the "political tipping point" within the history of is Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) and municipal and regional consolidation actions. Their influence on the shape of provincial, national and international political representation is effectively observed in infrastructural and trade policies throughout the country. In response to this convergence of spatial and resource control and management, is an attendant dialogues about the inherency of equitable distribution to the democratic project, where coherent views of citizenship and participation have merged into a performance of "economic citizenship."
The foregoing essay looks at "where the efficiency of one-tier comprehensive municipal systems" in the country has tended to be "assumed rather than investigated" (Sancton). In response to this query, an alternative is presented in the essay through application of Jacobson's (2008) comparative analysis of city-based participatory budget (PB) projects to the Canadian case. Whether participatory finance is an actual equalizer or a secondary consequence to law is examined, and so too the impact of constitutional rules on economic growth. In between those to considerations is of course, the potential of participatory democracy. How structural adjustment of Canada's cities occurred through imposition is a very interesting story, and one that only has complete edification through PB and other cases studies, and even more so through the lens of classical public choice theory, outlined here as four (4) contingencies to governance of CMA communities, illustrated in Table 1.
Public Choice Model
1. Modern metropolis are self-sorting where residents work across social and economic lines to form an aggregate "community of communities;" and where the suburb is the policy instrument by which ghettos of one stripe or another are institutionally segregated;
2. A multiplicity of small governments better satisfies resultant divergent social agendas of those citizens by participation in different expenditure packages; predicated upon the idea that the individual as a rational citizen consumer of public goods will choose that package which best fulfils life-style expectations;
3. A polycentric system is more cost-efficient. Separating service delivery from production, via agreements with wider-area providers where they exist or entering into mutually exploitive joint-area contracts, employing non-unionized staff or volunteers in governance roles; the competitive metropolis also is presumed to control an implied sense that citizens over-consume publicly generated goods and services;
4. Big cities are less efficient as service providers; forced to internalize the costs of public goods, monopolizing their service production and purely dysfunctional bureaucratic entrenchment.
Table 1. Public Choice Model
Source: Lightbody, James. Canada's Seraglio Cities: Political Barriers to Regional Governance. Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers Canadians de sociologie, 24.2, 1999, 189.
In discussions on urban planning and CMA, reference to major contribution of Public Choice theorists, such as Charles M. Tiebout (1956) offers seminal interpretation of incongruent application to territorial and functional consolidations, as "there may be differentiated efficiencies in the production of public goods, and that for the citizen, as a consumer of public services, a bigger unit of government is not invariably better" (Lightbody, 450). In Lightbody's (2009), Defining A Canadian Approach To Municipal: Consolidation In Major City-Regions, he goes on to argue that Tiebout's theoretical legitimacy in the policy debate "between centripetal and centrifugal local governing options for city-regions" has been in that it assumes that all citizens are both "rational" and flexible in their capacity to source optimum municipal service levels and taxation rates, to the effect that ultimately the state would not need to produce or provide quite a few key services.
American social theorists parallel Tiebout's earlier prospectus on public choice, as seen in Gordon Tullock's (1994) The New Federalist; proscription to the competitive benefits derived from decentralized approaches to governance. In 'economies of scale,' argues Tullock, the convergence of citizen reliance upon commercial community leadership, resource management and state provisions derived from land taxation put budgetary participation at the center of public choice, and by representation, municipal public policy. Employing the concept of Federalism, in what he calls the true system of American democracy Tullock maintains that to "think global and act local" is met with the most precision where citizens contribute personal decision to finance.
In a case study of his Tucson based, Sunshine Mountain Ridge Homeowner's Association, Tullock's public choice is worked out trough an analysis of effectiveness in governance. Much has to do with discretionary size, indicates Tullock; where squabbles are resolved more efficiently and effectively due to the elimination of bureaucratic inefficiencies characteristic of large centralized governments. Homogeneity seems to present the best case scenario to a sustainable model of local governance, and community members share similar economic and social goals.
Cross cutting class divisions in the American homeowner association are few, argues Tullock, and aside from 'by-laws' which govern commercial contract agreements with external services to the community, other property related activities of the members of the Association (i.e. color of house paint etc.) are left to circumstantial decision. Tullock evaluates two main functions of the Association: 1) participatory vote; and mostly in consideration of 2) contracting of protections -- either public (i.e. Pima County Sheriff) or private (i.e., Security). Other activities include assignment of external contracts in maintenance of specific infrastructure (e.g. streets, roads and highways) and the structural division of labor between the Association and municipal and county provisions.
In an attempt to reveal the optimization of democratic praxis promoted by the Association framework, Tullock goes on to argue that although public administration of populist decision on welfare state interests (i.e. pension funds) should be left to federal, or what consolidated interests, the remainder of community decision should be left to the discretionary administration of smaller political units. This effect is also evidenced in Lightbody's discussion on Canada's metropolitan evolution, where "a history of experimentation in response to mild servicing crisis -- water and sewerage in Toronto, policing in Montreal, land use planning in Winnipeg" has led to only some transformations in municipal operations, and spending as private partnerships are promoted through per capita spending, in other cases this has been null (180). Still program costs to taxpayers may actually be reduced by implementation of polycentric models, by one municipality "latching onto a centre (or other provider's) base operations (Lightbody, 186).
Tullock's Association model makes this concept clear, where collective contract of services is supported through agreement, and billed to residents individually. By taking the concept out from under the microscope, and putting it to use at the macro level, municipal waste management is perhaps the singular most impactful issue within most CMA, and in Canada this means the entire scope of environmental governance activities that constitute a significant portion of public administration and allocations of taxpayer revenues.
Much has changed since Tullock's analysis on municipal waste management was put forth, however, and spatial arrangements dictate jurisdictional obligations to residents considered part of a municipality. Enforceability of municipal waste services where there is no legally binding contiguity of services to jurisdiction offers keen insight into restructuring discussion in both Canada and the U.S., as continuous arrangement of services throughout a geographic area is a critical point of tension where tacit consent to imposed consolidation measures are concerned. Where law intervenes, there is also the possibility that taken for granted responsibilities to waste management present serious conundrums to new homeowners in development tracts. Homeowners may find themselves not within city limits of municipal waste management administered by near proximate municipalities, as suburban enclaves designated as part of the larger metropolitan region are deemed outside the limits of service.
As a bulwark in the face of the formal constitution of authority, the sewage plant debacle may very well be the single strongest bargaining chip for consolidation or annexation; or the "political tipping point" that transforms the scope of city-regional governments indefinitely as North American cities continue to exceed capacity in services. In Haines v. City of New York, [Court of Appeals of New York, 1977. 41 N.Y.2d 769, N.Y.S.2d 155, 364 N.E.2d 820], the obligation of the municipal waste management partnership was put to the test of institutional authority, to the conclusion that consolidation or annexation is not a decision of the "people" or even currently elected municipal bureaucracy, but is the immunity and the praxis of governance according to code that stands as rule.