Prior to getting involved in politics I didn’t think much about what the different levels of government were responsible for and, admittedly, it’s confusing.
There is lots of information online but who has time to read up on such things? Mayor and council are often recipients of letters from people who aren’t sure either so I thought I’d try to clarify. Keep in mind that it is much more complex than this but it can be broken down into these general areas.
The first breakdown we should acknowledge is that elected representatives focus primarily on legislation laws, bylaws, and policies. This helps create a framework for the employees of each level of government. Employees, or staff, carry out the work of the municipality, the province or the country. We tend to group them all together as ‘government’. Taxes are collected by each level of government to redistribute accordingly.
The federal government takes care of things that are funded by or affect all or most Canadians. These include the criminal code and the RCMP, citizenship, laws pertaining to money and banking, international trade, nuclear energy, official languages, Indigenous Peoples, marriage/divorce legislation, fisheries, prisons, radio/television and the postal service. This is not an exhaustive list and it doesn’t mean that the government runs agencies/corporations in these areas, but that they oversee them – govern them.
The provincial government focuses on issues that more directly affect residents of their province. Health care, schools, economic development, highways, civil and property rights, municipalities, social services, administration of justice and corporations with provincial objectives. Again, not an exhaustive list but a general idea. The provincial and federal government share responsibility of agriculture, old age pensions/benefits, and immigration.
Locally, we focus on core services such as water/sewer, local roads/sidewalks, parks and recreation, garbage collection, fire services, bylaws guiding development, economic development and animal control. Private developers tend to build the roads and sidewalks while the city builds the other infrastructure. The city maintains it all once it exists. Good legislation/policy and good money management helps create equitable access and fair distribution of services, which is good, because the goal of every government in Canada is to bring services, of one kind or another, to its citizens.
Sylvia Lindgren is a councillor for the City of Salmon Arm.
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