Census of municipal governments in Newfoundland and Labrador


Municipal governments play an important role in Newfoundland and Labrador society. Tasked with managing and maintaining crucial infrastructure to improve the province’s overall standard of living – water and sewer systems, local roads, recreation facilities – municipal governments have as much, or more, of an influence on the day-to-day well being of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians than either the provincial or federal governments. Though they play an important role, little is actually known about the state of municipal governments in the province. The provincial government has a general idea of the state of municipal finances, but it collects very little information on most other aspects of municipal government.

This informational gap presents a problem for our municipal system. With little known about the state of municipalities, it is difficult to assess the overall health of the municipal system and to understand the type and form of assistance that municipal governments’ need. Neither the provincial government nor the provincial municipal association have up-to-date information on municipal tax bases, on the ability of municipalities collect taxes, on the state of local infrastructure, on the costs associated with maintaining this infrastructure, on the quality of local fire departments, or on the manner in which local governments conduct their business.

Gathering this information is important, but conducting an analysis of it is essential. There needs to be a better understanding of why municipal governments are in their current state. Municipal actions or inactions on specific municipal responsibilities cannot be isolated from each other. How a municipality maintains its recreation facilities is connected to its water and sewer system and its tax base. Municipal governments are interconnected systems, and need to be assessed as such.

It is for these reasons that a new census of municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador needs to be conducted. Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) conducted a census of municipalities in both 2003 and 2007. Those two surveys had good rates of return and were very informative. Both censuses allowed MNL to be more informed in its advocacy and formulation of policy. The questions for this new census can be derived from many of the questions from the two previous censuses.

While MNL can play a leading role in the development of the census questionnaire, conducting a thorough analysis of census responses is currently outside of its capacity. MNL currently has only two staff members devoted to policy and neither is able to devote the necessary time to compile census data and conduct the necessary analysis.

The deliverables of the project are:

• To create a census form for municipalities that will elicit from the respondents information that will provide a good understanding of the status of a municipality and municipal operations;
• To conduct a census of municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador;
• To provide municipalities with more than one method of completing the census (paper submissions, online submissions);
• To ensure that the census is completed by a significant majority of municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador;
• To organize the census data in an orderly and easy to understand format;
• To conduct a thorough analysis of the census information. This analysis should provide an overall assessment of the municipal system, as well as an analysis of different aspects of municipal operations.

The anticipated cost of the project is approximately $7,000.00. This cost can be broken down as follows:

• $500.00 (professional fees) on creating the census form
• $2,000.00 on printing and postage
• $500.00 (professional fees) on following-up with municipalities to ensure form is completed and returned
• $4000.00 (professional fees) on conducting a written analysis of the census.

The project is anticipated to take approximately 6 months.

Newfoundland and Labrador
Community Development
Municipal Development
Politics and Society