December 4, 2009
There is a strong correlation between believing citizens are encouraged to play a role in their cities, satisfaction with city services and a belief that the services received are worth the taxes paid.
Two thirds of respondents are satisfied with how their municipal services are delivered, but only one fifth are “very satisfied”.
Slightly more than one half of respondents feel they are encouraged to play a role in their municipalities, but just one fifth say this is a “significant role”.
Close to half of respondents say provincial politics has the most impact on their lives, followed by about one third who think municipal politics affects them the most. About one quarter think federal politics impact them most.
The vast majority of respondents voted in their last civic election. When people are asked why they are not more engaged in municipal politics, the following list emerges, illustrating the peril of familiarity with candidates:
Decisions made to suit developers, not citizens (23%)
Poor quality of candidates (18%)
Same people run every time (14%)
When asked how this might be corrected, they are quick to suggest specific solutions:
Referenda on major issues (27%)
Term limits for municipal politicians (15%)
Neighbourhood/local advisory councils (13%)
Internet voting (11%)
Respondents were asked in a number of ways how they might improve life in their towns. Below is shown a list of the most popular ideas:
Competitive bidding for city services – private sector & public (49%)
Seniors advisory panel with real powers (28%)
Ban all closed-door council meetings (24%)
Taxes geared to income/savings, not property (24%)
Civil servants to have same health care as seniors (20%)
Sale of city-owned property (15%)
More public/low-cost housing (13%)
Restrictions on malls/big box stores (10%)
When asked what they would like to see in their neighbourhoods, as opposed to NIMBYism, the following, not very enthusiastic list emerges:
Small community theatre/performance space (17%)
Day care and after-school care (16%)
Work/live housing (11%)
Public square (10%)
Elder shelter (9%)
When asked what needs fixing in their cities, the following list emerges:
Taxes are too high (24%)
Councillors out of touch with citizens (14%)
Budget is out of control (13%)
Too many factions/cliques (11%)
Development is out of control (10%)
More than half think the municipal services they receive aren’t worth the taxes they pay, and this is especially true of those who are not satisfied with the delivery of municipal services.
There is wide agreement that school facilities should be open to greater public use, if they aren’t already.
Two thirds of respondents prefer a system where the city council and the mayor make decisions together, after extensive public input.
When asked what makes a good mayor, the following list emerges:
Listening to the public (23%)
Fiscal responsibility (22%)
Strong leader (10%)