Category Archives: Multi-level governance

MULTI-LEVEL GOVERNANCE AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: DO WE NEED THE GOVERNMENT TO BUILD COMMUNITY CAPACITY?

In recent years, my research of multi-level governance in Canada has encompassed 13 case studies, dealing with six policy areas in three Canadian cities. Taken together, those studies provide a considerable body of evidence that the quality of national policies could be improved if local communities, or their authentic representatives, had a bigger role in policy formulation and implementation. They show with equal clarity that, while the federal government pays lip service to the importance of community input into policy-making, federal politicians and public servants are reluctant to match their words with action. A quick look at some of the studies my research assistants and I conducted provides a glimpse of these findings.

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DEEP FEDERALISM: WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO IN ORDER TO RESPECT COMMUNITY DIFFERENCE IN NATIONAL POLICY?

In the age of community, with corporate mobility undermining the power of national governments, is there a role for national governments in defending the interests of local communities? In my current research, I argue that there is, but that rigid enforcement of a national standard is not the appropriate way to do it, because the differences among communities ensure that what works in one may not work in another.
What is needed, rather, is a degree of flexibility that allows national standards to be met differently in different communities, and that draws on local knowledge to determine what these differences will be. In a previous entry, I outlined briefly how such flexibility is achieved in federal-provincial relations, but there is also a little-known history of such flexibility in the relations between the Canadian federal government and local communities, as well as a current practice that tries to build on that history.
I call such flexibility deep federalism, a species of federalism that extends the Canadian tradition of respect for provincial differences to the level of the local community. An early example of deep federalism was the Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP), a federal government scheme aimed at the renovation of public facilities in declining neighbourhoods, which became a community development tool through the simple expedient of a requirement that a plan for neighbourhood renewal be preceded by and based upon a public participation process in each targeted neighbourhood. NIP, therefore, was structured to respect the differences, not only among cities, but also among individual neighbourhoods.

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INTRODUCTION TO MY BLOG

I’m a professor of politics at the University of Winnipeg. I’ve spent most of my adult life doing research, writing and teaching, first about African politics and, more recently, city politics. Before becoming a professor, I was a journalist, writing for daily newspapers.
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