Amalgamation: The Road to Serfdom

Andrew Sancton in Merger Mania credits Britain in the late 1950s with the dawn of local government reform among liberal democracies. More than one royal commission (Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London, 1957-60 – also known as the Herbert Report, and Radcliffe-Maud a decade later in 1968) were undertaken first, to examine (and then implement) amalgamation in London’s boroughs and to create the Greater London Council. Radcliffe-Maud in 1968 would deal with other amalgamative possibilities throughout the rest of Britain. Sancton states that this Redcliffe-Maud commission:

“…is significant in many ways, one of which it sponsored research relating to the relationship between local government size and efficiency for various local government functions. Its own statistical research did not demonstrate that services provided by existing larger governments were more efficiently provided than by existing smaller ones.” (Sancton: Merger Mania, 2000)

Unfortunately for the citizens of the Halifax region, it appears efficiency gains (or lack thereof in practice) resulting from municipal amalgamations have been long documented, but long ignored by Nova Scotian government officials.

Two Nova Scotian commissions with similar aims as Redcliffe-Maud (The Royal Commission on Education, Public Services, and Provincial-Municipal Relations under Liberal Premier Gerald Regan in 1974, and The Task Force on Local Government under PC Premier Donald Cameron in 1992) arrived at the opposite conclusion; against available research and without initial public support or consent , a single amalgamated municipality was mindlessly ushered into being.