The slow, stately march to transform government services could soon become a bit disorderly. In some eyes, the transformation parade revealed a few weaknesses as it passed the reviewing stand at this year’s Lac Carling Congress. There is no identifiable parade marshal, after all. At every fork in the road, the parade slows or halts while negotiations take place among the leading marchers. But in the ranks behind, the most recent recruits to the parade are intent on marching briskly forward, protocol be damned.
The new marchers are municipalities. They have someplace they want to go. They might not be willing to march in line. And they are, by and large, an impatient and outspoken lot….every time we start talking about a project, its scope grows…So we end up in analysis paralysis, and never get on with it. Per Kristensen> “Just do it!” was the exhortation from one municipal delegate during the opening plenary session, when delegates were discussing issues to be raised and organizations to be consulted before recommendations could be made to a committee to consider a study of a potential initiative.
The interjector was Per Kristensen, chief technology officer of the City of Nanaimo, B.C., and one of the founders of an emerging municipal IT association called MISA/ASIM Canada.
Kristensen spoke afterward of the frustration felt by municipal IT delegates with the pace of service delivery advancements as discussed at Lac Carling.
“At this conference, every time we start talking about a project, its scope grows. You get scope creep. People say, ‘We should do this, but we also need to consider this and this and this and this.’ So we end up in analysis paralysis, and never get on with it.”
This is a new drumbeat for Lac Carling. It comes from a group that, until last year, had hardly been heard from at all. It was only at the 2004 conference, under the influence of co-chair Peter Bennett of Winnipeg and growing municipal involvement in pilot projects, that delegates voted to make “engaging municipalities” one of the highest-priority recommendations to the Public Sector CIO Council and the Public Sector Service Delivery Council.
This year, it was clear that delegates now generally accept the view expressed during the Political Leaders Panel by Ann MacLean, mayor of New Glasgow, N.S., and president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities: “Governments must work together,” MacLean said. “We cannot work in silos. Cities and communities must be involved. They must be essential partners, because it is at our cities and communities where the federal, provincial and territorial policies are implemented. They are the front line of government.”
Newly included, municipal delegates this year quickly moved to a new position, but with a measure of contradiction: They want to be recognized and consulted by other levels of government in planning the transformation of service delivery – but they don’t want to wait while the consultations proceed.
Kevin Peacock, branch manager of corporate information services with the City of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, expressed the commonly held municipal view: “In all the Lac Carling conferences I’ve been coming to in the past few years, there has been a lot of talk from the senior levels of government and very little action.
“I think they’ve got some great strategies, some great ideas, but they have shown very little ability to implement them. The municipal governments are smaller, more nimble and with less bureaucracy, and I think we are in a position to start pushing from the bottom up.
“Now that we have a voice and are forming a national association, we should start focusing on becoming the group that makes things happen.”
The growing municipal presence was reflected in the formal establishment of MISA/ASIM Canada (Municipal Information Systems Association/Association des syst