E16 - Studies of Local Political Elites: Elected Officials and Senior Staff
Date: Jun 14 | Time: 08:30am to 10:00am | Location:
The Declining Tenure of Alberta's Chief Administrative Officers: Kate Graham (Huron University College / Western University), Jesse Helmer (Huron University College)
Abstract: This paper presents the findings of a study on the role and tenure of chief administrative officers (CAOs) in Alberta municipalities, pursued as part of the University of Calgary’s Future of Local Government Series. Using a mixed-methods approach that blends qualitative and quantitative analysis, this paper presents several important findings: ● The average tenure of a CAO in Alberta is now well under the length of one term of council. CAO tenure is generally shorter in smaller municipalities. More concerningly, the average length of tenure has been in a steady state of decline for the past two decades. ● The number of CAO transitions, including acting and interim roles, has been increasing in all types of municipalities – in some types of municipalities, double or triple the rate of CAO transitions in earlier time periods. ● Shorter CAO tenures and higher rates of turnover mean more costly transitions: dollars spent on recruitments or severance packages; significant organizational disruption; and, importantly, a reduced opportunity for CAOs to reach peak performance in their roles. ● Current and past CAOs identify the increasingly tenuous political dynamics as a leading driver in role dissatisfaction and as a top consideration in decisions to join or depart from a municipality. The success of CAOs, collectively, is an important indicator of the health of the municipal public service in Alberta. This paper presents the findings of this study, and raises larger theoretical questions about the politicization and the changing context for local public administrators.
How Local Politicians Navigate Interests and Institutions Responsible for Land Use: The Case of Vancouver’s Langara Golf Course: Kael Kropp (McGill University), Daniel Béland (McGill University; Director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada)
Abstract: How do local politicians navigate competing interests and institutions responsible for land use? With the growth of urban populations and development in major Canadian cities, local governments face increasing challenges in regulating public space and balancing competing visions for land use. However, limited research probes the factors influencing local politicians’ decisions, especially in the context of municipal recreational sites. This paper investigates the case of Vancouver’s Langara Golf Course: a 114-acre city-owned facility generating debates among local politicians and the public regarding alternative land uses. Employing a mixed-methods approach, this study combines in-depth interviews with five local politicians and comments from 30 local politicians during the 2018-2020 deliberation period. Qualitative and quantitative content analyses identify five factors influencing local politicians’ decisions regarding municipal golf course land use: (1) partisan affiliation, (2) equity considerations, (3) environmental factors, (4) economic benefits, and (5) governance institutions and systems stabilizing municipal golf courses. The findings emphasize the influence of partisan affiliation and underscore the role of Vancouver’s at-large electoral system in constraining the exploration of alternative land use options for sites like Langara Golf Course. This paper introduces a framework for understanding local politicians’ land use decisions, comprising systemic considerations that include municipal golf courses in broader parks and recreation planning, as well as localized approaches that prioritize site-specific factors and community needs. By situating golf courses within urban governance and public administration research, this paper constitutes an early effort to understand political decision-making in managing public spaces and recreational amenities in large cities.
City managers in Quebec municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants: perceptions of elected officials: Sandra Breux (INRS)
Abstract: Within municipalities, relations between the mayor and city manager are sometimes a source of tension. Although there is little research on city managers, the delimitation of areas of competence between the mayor and the city manager remains unclear, and that it is often in the field that the functions between these two people are delineated. While the situation seems clearer between the rest of the municipal council and the city manager, it can also be a source of conflict. As far as we are aware, however, few studies have examined this relationship in small municipalities, even though they sometimes share a city manager and have limited resources. Based on a survey of some 100 elected officials in Quebec municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, and interviews with some 30 of them, we will show how the function of city management is perceived and defined by elected officials (mayors and councillors). This analysis will open the door to a broader reflection on the conception of municipalities, on the definition of political and administrative roles in small municipalities, often little studied in political science.
"La politique ce n'est pas juste une affaire de gens de 50 ans" ou les jeunes élus municipaux au Québec: Anne Mevellec (université d'Ottawa)
Abstract: L’objectif général de notre recherche est d’analyser, de façon qualitative, la présence des jeunes élus et élues (18-35 ans) en politique municipale au Québec. Les résultats d’une première enquête ont permis de soulever plusieurs éléments intéressants en lien avec le parcours des jeunes élus et élues, et les défis de l’exercice de la politique particulièrement lors d’un premier mandat dans les villes moyennes et grandes. Fortes de ces premiers constats, nous proposons ici, à l’aide de l’analyse d’une trentaine d’entrevues semi-dirigées, réalisées en 2023 et 2024, d’explorer deux principales pistes. Premièrement, on interrogera le lien entre le parcours de socialisation de l’engagement et l’entrée en politique active, en mettant particulièrement en relief le poids de la scolarisation de ces derniers. Ce dernier se manifeste à la fois dans les profils et expériences des élus, mais également dans leurs implications en politique scolaire qui ponctuent fortement leurs trajectoires d’engagement. Deuxièmement, on discutera de l’accueil fait à ces jeunes dans les conseils municipaux québécois afin de mieux comprendre comment le jeune âge pourrait se révéler être un atout en politique, mais surtout comment il intervient dans la prise de rôle et des responsabilités une fois élu. Une attention sensible au genre permettra, de façon transversale, de mieux comprendre les dynamiques qui président à ce petit groupe d’élus municipaux presque paritaire.