The School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) held its fifth annual Municipalities of the Future Symposium in hybrid format on March 23.
This year’s theme, “Municipalities, good governance and sustainability: Bringing progressive strategies to life,” featured insightful panels ranging from environmental sustainability and climate resilience to smart cities, ethics, human resources and procurement.
With more than 150 virtual participants and 60 guests who attended in person, municipal employees, non-profit managers, community leaders, provincial public servants, students and faculty from SPPA reflected on the lessons learned from the pandemic and engaged in exploring innovative approaches to acting on pressing policy priorities with a renewed focus on sustainability through equity, diversity and inclusivity.
“Delivering through Partnerships” was the central message highlighted by keynote speaker Associate Deputy Minister Vinay Sharda of Policy, Planning & Agency Relations with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Sharda explained the synergies between elected officials, public servants and the communities they serve. He also highlighted the qualities of effective leadership and provided advice during a question-and-answer period.
When addressing the responsibilities of public servants to elected officials, Sharda emphasized the ability and importance to offer the best advice, confidentiality and the skills to implement changes. He stressed that trust and transparency between partners can lead to better outcomes, cultural change, and produce responsive and optimal delivery of mandates.
The symposium further explored, developed, and analyzed key issues including resilience and planning, equity and the role of human resources and procurement, frameworks for organizational structure, data hubs, and improving governance through ethics and clear processes.
Sharda said in his keynote address, “the province and municipalities are the front-line delivery agents, we must increase collaboration to deliver and deliver effectively.”
The event concluded with a round-table discussion on what it means to emerge from the pandemic with lessons learned on sustainability and governance. The session was facilitated by SPPA’s Director and Associate Professor Alena Kimakova, and Associate Professor Zac Spicer, who will be leading the Master of Public Policy, Administration and Law (MPPAL) municipal stream at York University’s new Markham Campus in Fall 2023.
The symposium was co-sponsored by the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. A full listing of speakers and their biographies can be found on the SPPA webpage.