Search form

Become a Member Today Sign Up

Case Study


As the baby boomer generation enters retirement, it’s becoming harder than ever to recruit and retain the qualified workers that governments need. In Tennessee for example, upwards of thirty percent of public employees are already eligible to retire—with that number surpassing fifty percent by 2023. The boomer retirement wave likewise has prompted localities to become more strategic in their quest to fill the growing number of vacancies that require specialized training and education. And while local governments are unable to compete with the private sector salaries, they have a distinct advantage when it comes to their mission.

Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


With the average age of citizens increasing, age-friendly community planning has become a foremost priority for municipalities. The implementation of age-friendly policies assists with both the physical and social well-being of older adults within communities. PSD sat down with Michelle Dellamora, the Supervisor for Age-Friendly London, to discuss how London is implementing age-friendly initiatives in order to make life more accessible for older adults.


“What we were finding is that a lot of older adults are not connected, or they don’t know about things going on in their neighbourhood.”


Can you explain the mandate of Age-Friendly London and its role within the City?

Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


Women have a come a long way in Canada. Our policies, culture, and even some areas of our workforce reflect the ideals of equitable opportunity. Nevertheless, it remains necessary for Canadians to make a concerted effort towards elevating women in society. Besides the statistical evidence of unequal representation of women in particular fields, such as medicine, politics, and law, there still remains a lingering systemic disadvantage for women. For the purposes of brevity, I will limit the discussion of Canada’s socio-cultural climate and instead, I will focus on the state of women’s representation in the government decision-making process. One area in which women are far too underrepresented is in the number of women elected to municipal government. Gender disparity is a concern for all Canadians. As we tear down the barriers for women, we can welcome new talents while also enhancing women’s well-being in our communities as their concerns become more prominent in the local decision-making process.


“… women and girls work for cities, but cities don’t work for women and girls. The best way for a city to make a difference is by adopting a gender intersectional lens, whether it be dealing with climate change, transit, or child care. By doing so, municipalities will be able to see the different needs of all women and girls in their communities and they will be able to develop different strategies to address those needs.”


i. Where do Women Stand?


When comparing women’s representation at the federal level, Canada ranks 50th in the world, behind countries such as Bolivia and Cuba, which have accomplished gender parity in their governments. Regardless of the position Canada holds on the global scale, it is clear from our numbers alone that we are not reaching an adequate level of representation for women. Canada’s population is 50 percent female, yet no level of government exceeds 30 percent female representation.

At the federal level, women hold 26 percent of the seats in the house of commons.[i] At the provincial level, women fair a little better as they represent 29 percent of elected seats.[ii] Finally, at the municipal level, only 18 percent of mayors are women, and 28 percent of councillors are women, providing us with a grand total of 26 percent.[iii] Local government plays a critical role in our everyday lives. It affects Canadians in some of the most immediate ways, such as their education, personal safety, health, environment, housing, and transportation. Every role the local government is charged with ultimately affects its citizens' wellbeing. We, therefore, need to have everyone’s needs accounted for.

Unfortunately, we have a long way to go before reaching parity, however, we are close to reaching a different milestone. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) determined that a government requires a minimum representation of 30 percent for women’s concerns to be accurately reflected in politics. This target was suggested by the advocacy group in 2005 and the goal is to reach 30 percent by 2026. Although it appears we are close to reaching the target at the municipal level, increasing by 4 percent is no simple task. In other words, as stated by FCM, an additional 100 women in municipal government would need to be added every year for the next 14 years to attain the 30 percent target.[iv] 

Between the 1960s and the early 1990s, we experienced a large increase in women’s involvement in politics. However, since then, the gender gap persists, and we are seeing relative stagnation in women’s progress. Between 2007 and 2017 there has been a less than 2 percent increase from each election cycle. As women strive to reach the 30 percent goal we are left with the stark reality that our goal is far below gender parity.


ii. Why do we need equitable representation?


Women are losing confidence in the democratic process as they feel that their voices are not being heard and their participation is not leading to meaningful change. Increasing the number of women in office can instigate monumental changes to a community. Strengthening their presence in local politics is inherently a democratic issue. In a democratic system, we entrust our politicians to make decisions because they were elected by the people to be representatives for our values and needs. In Canada, we deem it important to have appropriate geographic representation in our governments as we understand that geography can define our concerns. Similarly, a democratic system should also reflect society’s gender division. Women have unique experiences and their concerns are defined by this experience. Women in government are not only shedding light on issues that affect women, they are making every decision through a lens created by their experience. By increasing the number of women involved in government decision making, we can enhance women’s wellness as their needs are being met in a more substantial way.

With that being said, many women often experience intersectional disadvantages. In other words, one woman cannot speak on behalf of her entire gender. This is because not every woman’s experience is the same. A higher percentage of women in government would not only ensure that the female experience is being heard, the hope is that it would also diversify the political realm with a wider variety of female voices. Men and women’s experiences are not simply defined by their gender – other characteristics such as class, race, religion, and disabilities also shape one’s experience in Canada. The outcomes of the decision-making process will better represent its citizens as the government better reflects society’s demographics. Increasing representation in government has also proven to be consequential for image alone. Having women present in high power business positions or in politics creates a new status quo. This new norm can eventually infiltrate society by teaching the next generations that women have the same chances of participating in government decision-making.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is an entire reserve of untapped talent and knowledge. An efficient municipality will be easier to attain with the use of all of its available resources. In local government, the decision-making process is often made up of majority rules. This process not only drowns out the voice of the minority, it also weakens the diversity of ideas since consensus is ruled out as a viable solution. Inside and outside of the workplace women have shown a higher propensity to encourage consensus and further discussion, which can lead to the development of more innovative ideas.

The question becomes; why have women not been able to break into the political realm? Women have created gender parity in education and in other workforces, yet they are striving to reach 30 percent representation in public office. There are significant barriers for women to engage in politics. Even though women have equal chances to be elected they are far less likely to be chosen to run. This is in part due to women’s unwillingness to run. Women must be asked to run several more times than their male counterparts. Studies have found several reasons as to why this may be the case.

First, women experience harsher criticism during elections and once they are in office. Female politicians have provided an abundance of testimonies describing their experiences in office; their stories highlight the negatively biased treatment they receive from the media and their male colleagues. Women are also expected to play a larger role at home and therefore may have more difficulty balancing a career in politics with other social requirements. Finally, women are less likely to be re-elected once in office. Women have been found to be extremely active in their communities and they make up nearly half of Canada’s workforce and the majority of its university graduates. Women in Canada have the experience, education, and passion, yet they are still not equally represented in office. To increase women’s participation in office, concrete institutional and procedural changes must be made in government and their communities. This means that action must be taken by those within local governments.


iii. Transforming Local Government


There are numerous entities across the globe that are working towards enhancing gender parity and diversity in the local government decision-making process. In Canada, local leaders are provided with resources and avenues through which they can help strengthen women’s participation in local decision-making and ultimately improve women’s wellbeing. We have seen significant action from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. FCM’s program, Diverse Voices for Change, works toward reaching 30 percent representation in local government by 2026. The program involves five municipalities from across Canada with which FCM strives to develop strategies, recommendations, and policies to strengthen the voice of women in local communities.

FCM also offers awards and scholarships for women that are interested in taking an active role in municipal government. The awards help recognize women that have been changing the landscape of local government and encourages more women, particularly those from our next generation, to take action and become involved. Furthermore, FCM has compiled a list of resources to help educate those that are on their path to finding equitable representation at the level of local government.[v]

Women Transforming Cities (WTC) is another valuable organization that must be recognized for their efforts. This NGO promotes the use of a Gender/Equity Lens in the government decision-making process. Their mission is to transform all cities around the world into spaces where women are empowered through community engagement, inclusive policies, and equitable representation. Ellen Woodsworth, a former Vancouver City Councillor, is the founder of Women Transforming Cities. Through her experience, Ellen has found that women and girls work for cities, but cities don’t work for women and girls. The best way for a city to make a difference is by adopting a gender intersectional lens, whether it be dealing with climate change, transit, or child care. By doing so, municipalities will be able to see the different needs of all women and girls in their communities and they will be able to develop different strategies to address those needs. The organization takes action with a number of formidable programs that seek to find new avenues to encourage women to participate in local government and encourage municipalities to adopt the gender intersectional lens.

WTC announced a three-year project called “Action on systemic barriers to women’s participation in local government.” The project involves working with the City of Vancouver in developing sustainable and effective initiatives that can increase equity for women and other minority groups through local government action. The results of this project will culminate in an informative case study from which other municipalities can learn how best to welcome women into local public service. In 2017, WTC conducted the Hot Pink Paper (HPP). This campaign was put into action in the attempt to draw attention to the challenges women experience in the City of Vancouver. The study focused on three key issues: violence against women and girls, affordable housing, and environment. The results outline eleven important issues facing women along with three plans of action for each issue. These results are available now online.[vi] 

Finally, WTC has another campaign entitled the Women Friendly Cities Challenge (WFCC). WFCC was launched at the World Urban Forum (WUF) 9 in Malaysia 2018. The campaign crosses borders and invites cities from around the world to contribute to and utilize an international collaborative online library of wise practices. WTC will be releasing an online platform to help people from around the world learn about locally appropriate actions, tools, and principles that can encourage equitable and sustainable social conditions. As WTC seeks to encourage knowledge sharing they are inspiring innovative practices with some proposed development goals. Under each goal, there are references, resources, and documented insights gained from experience working within local governments. The goals are not yet complete but they include concrete recommendations such as: making civic information available to the public in order to broaden the opportunities for participation and create more transparency; equip the younger generation with access to education, skills development, and employment opportunities; and provide equitable and affordable access to physical and social infrastructures.[vii] Beyond utilizing this free library to better your community, there are more ways that a local government can help by endorsing, supporting, and/or contributing their own references that encourage wise practices on the Women Transforming Cities website.


iv. Conclusion


In attempting to create more resilient cities we cannot forget the component of female representation. As we draw more women into governmental roles we are not only helping to create equitable representation, but we are cultivating ideas from a brand-new subset of the population that has yet to fully break through the barriers to the public sector. We are creating a brand-new culture within our communities that concerns itself with the wellness of all its citizens. The importance of women’s involvement in government decision-making cannot be understated. Local governments make decisions and take actions that shape the foundations of our everyday lives, therefore we can only hope that the concerns of all citizens are being heard. It is up to our local leaders to take action and make a difference for the next generation. By utilizing the resources available to you, our mayors, councillors, and civil servants can create initiatives that will make a difference in the lives of every woman and girl in their community.


ERIN ORR, MA is a Research Analyst at the Public Sector Digest. She completed her master’s degree from Western University in Political Science, specializing in Canadian Politics. She also completed an Honors Specialization in Political Science at Western University. In her role at PSD, Erin is responsible for developing relationships with clients and municipalities across Canada, promoting PSD’s products and services, and conducting supplementary research as it relates to asset management and public policy. Erin can be reached at eorr [at] publicsectordigest [dot] com


Case Study


The City of Santa Monica can be seen as leading the way in the area of community wellbeing. Not only does the City’s Office of Civic Wellbeing measure wellbeing – a commendable new function of municipal government in its own right – but it also emphasizes and focuses on six core areas, stressing the importance of a holistic approach to wellbeing. PSD sat down with Julie Rusk, Chief of Civic Wellbeing, to learn more about this unique approach, called the Wellbeing Index, and understand how wellbeing has newly infiltrated the function of municipal government.


Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


For millennia, philosophers have pondered the question: What is the good life? How can we define it and how will we know when we have it? These are questions that community leaders also struggle with as they strive to make their communities better for their residents. Most importantly, they want to know the best way to create, maintain, and enhance the quality of life in their communities. In a world of inequality, “fake news,” climate change, and uncertainty, this age-old quest for wellbeing may be the most important issue – and solution – of our time.


“… the gap between growth in GDP and wellbeing is growing. In 2008, the gap was 21 percent. By 2010, it grew to 24.5 percent. Four years later, it stood at 28.1 percent. Simply put, economic growth has not translated into greater wellbeing.”


For decades, economic productivity, especially as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was regarded as the best reflection of our wellbeing. More recently, however, a growing global consensus has emerged that recognizes that unchecked economic growth is not the path to greater wellbeing and that GDP cannot – and was never intended to – measure social progress. At the same time, we have never had more evidence that better health, more education, greater civic engagement, a cleaner environment, and a host of other factors contribute to more productive, creative, and vibrant societies. Consequently, the world is searching for a better way to define and measure prosperity, to reduce inequality, and to bolster wellbeing.

For the past 25 years, the United Nations, the European Union, the OECD, Nobel Prize winners, progressive countries – even the private sector – and others have been trying to define and measure quality of life. Some of the more well-known international efforts include the Human Development Index (HDI), Beyond GDP, the OECD’s Better Life Index, the Bhutan Gross National Happiness Index, and the World Happiness Report. At the national level, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW), based at the University of Waterloo, has been cited by the OECD as a global pioneer.

The internationally-recognized Canadian Index of Wellbeing not only measures quality of life, but also provides a powerful policy tool. Increasingly, provinces, municipalities, and organizations are using the CIW to benchmark, to set priorities, to measure progress, and to dig deeper into key aspects of quality of life as a pathway to inform strategic planning and policy development.


I. How Canadians define wellbeing


During extensive consultation with experts, policy makers and, most importantly, Canadians from across the entire country, the CIW identified what Canadians believe are essential elements of their quality of life. Top priorities were: good primary and secondary education, access to quality health care, a sustainable environment, supportive social programs, responsible taxation, greater public safety and security, enhanced economic and housing security including, employment opportunities, a living wage, greater civic engagement, and more work-life balance.

Based on these priorities and a comprehensive scan of quality of life research, the CIW defined wellbeing as:

The presence of the highest possible quality of life in its full breadth of expression focused on, but not necessarily exclusive to: good living standards, robust health, a sustainable environment, vital communities, an educated population, balanced time use, high levels of democratic engagement, and participation in leisure and culture.


II. Measuring what matters most


Once wellbeing was defined, experts in each domain reviewed academic literature and proposed the most appropriate indicators. The indicators had to meet several criteria such as; being valid measures directly affecting wellbeing, gathered reliably over time for all of Canada; being reasonably, publicly available; and later on, also being available provincially. The indicators were intended to provide multiple insights into Canadians’ conditions, behaviours and perceptions over time. They were peer-reviewed, vetted by a national working group, and are regularly validated by Canadians to ensure they are relevant and easy to understand.

The result is a holistic, comprehensive, valid, and consistent model that uses eight indicators for each of the eight equally-weighted domains of the framework: community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards, and time use (see Figure 1). The 64 indicators draw from over 200 unique data sources – primarily from Statistics Canada – from 1994 to today.

Figure 1: The Canadian Index of Wellbeing Framework


III. The ultimate policy tool


Not only does the CIW framework measure changes in overall wellbeing – allowing national and provincial policy-makers to track and compare progress – it breaks down trends by domain, identifies relationships among indicators across domains, and provides evidence-based policy direction. By placing wellbeing rather than a problem at the heart of public policy, innovative solutions emerge to address some of our most complex problems.

“It’s the ultimate policy multi-tool,” according to Mike Salvaris, Project Manager for the Australian National Development Index (ANDI) and Research Fellow at Melbourne University.

Importantly, the CIW captures what GDP cannot. It distinguishes between positive factors like health and clean air, and negative factors like illness and pollution. It counts volunteer work and unpaid caregiving as social goods while overwork and stress are treated as deficits. It values educational achievement, health, economic and personal security. It emphasizes a better balance between investment in health promotion and spending on illness and treatment. It measures what matters most to Canadians and reveals a growing gap between economic growth and wellbeing.


Iv. Tracking the gap between growth and wellbeing


The evidence is clear. Since 1994, Canada’s wellbeing has been lagging far behind our economic growth and, even though the economy bounced back after the 2008 recession, wellbeing suffered a set-back from which it is barely recovering (see Figure 2). Indeed, the CIW’s 2016 national report, “How are Canadians really doing?”,[1] confirmed what Canadians were feeling, but could not quantify – the gap between growth in GDP and wellbeing is growing. In 2008, the gap was 21 percent. By 2010, it grew to 24.5 per cent. Four years later, it stood at 28.1 percent. Simply put, economic growth has not translated into greater wellbeing.

Figure 2. Trends in the Canadian Index of Wellbeing and GDP per capita in Canada, 1994-2014 show the gap between economic growth and wellbeing is growing.

However, the data also show that proactive public policy interventions, like the creation of childcare spaces or increases in arts and culture participation, can significantly improve wellbeing. Domain and indicator trends can also give stakeholders the information they need to turn strengths into competitive advantages and to tackle weaker areas with renewed focus.


V. Powerful data and insights for all levels of government


As a comprehensive, evidence-based model, the CIW uses data to provide powerful insights for all levels of government. Beyond providing a lens for an understanding of wellbeing at the national level, the CIW can also provide insight at the provincial, regional, and community level.

For example, an Ontario index report has already drawn attention to the province’s strengths and areas where it lags behind the national average. Saskatchewan will release its provincial index report in the fall of 2018. The CIW was also commissioned by Engage Nova Scotia to help stakeholders see issues in their province from a new perspective and to imagine new partnerships that focus on common leverage points.

At the community level, the CIW model has been embraced by municipalities that are interested in an integrated and connected approach for long-term sustainability. Working with the community – often a consortium of local organizations including local government – the CIW shifts from existing population-level data to gather survey data on the perceptions and behaviours of a representative sample of citizens. By asking the same wellbeing questions in each community, comparisons can be made and learning drawn from other communities and regions. The survey yields a much richer data set than anything previously available, especially in terms of social and environmental data.

The CIW works with its community partners to identify factors that are most closely related to the wellbeing of different areas or subgroups within the population. For example, the City of Guelph looked at how wellbeing differed by income level and across its Wards. Kingston explored civic engagement by age, income, and geography and found that more engaged residents reported higher levels of wellbeing. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo focused on the positive effect on wellbeing of sense of belonging, length of residency, and household type in its 2013 survey.

Communities are also starting to explore trends over time. In 2013, Waterloo Region looked at the effect of community belonging and income level on wellbeing. This work evolved into the Wellbeing Waterloo Region initiative, making it the first community to conduct a second survey – a key to understanding trends over time. More recently, Ontario’s Oxford County aligned the CIW framework with its long-term sustainability plan and results from the CIW survey provided benchmarks for the plan with the intent to measure progress every five years. In the interim, a broad community consortium is mining the data and engaging the community around key leverage points to address root causes of complex issues.


VI. Transforming organizational frameworks


Addressing root causes by adopting a holistic, long-term, evidence-based framework is why organizations are also adopting the CIW approach.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), an agency of the provincial government and one of Canada’s largest granting foundations, not only commissioned the CIW to produce provincial and regional reports, it adopted the framework in its 10-year strategic plan to guide granting decisions and to measure the impact of its grants. In a news release at the time, former CEO Andrea Barrack Cohen explained that a rigorous approach to measurement would help OTF generate the greatest impact with investments.

Intrigued by the CIW’s ability to connect the dots between social determinants of health and important community outcomes, the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) encouraged its members to use the framework to assess community needs, build partnerships, develop strategies, evaluate and advocate for change. Today, more than 31 sites across Ontario use the Be Well Survey, a derivative of the CIW’s community wellbeing survey. Improved health and more efficient use of resources are anticipated outcomes of this shift in emphasis.

UNICEF Canada is also currently collaborating with the CIW and an extensive group of advisors to develop a Canadian Index of Child and Youth Wellbeing. The beta version will be released later in 2018.


“Not only does the CIW framework measure changes in overall wellbeing – allowing national and provincial policy-makers to track and compare progress – it breaks down trends by domain, identifies relationships among indicators across domains, and provides evidence-based policy direction.”


VII. Enabling an important shift in citizen engagement


As governments, organizations, and stakeholders gather to explore CIW findings, set priorities and develop new plans, the importance of conversations and collaborations that emerge cannot be overstated. In a recent interview with the Washington Post,[2] David Pilling, a Financial Times editor and author of The Growth Delusion: Wealth, Poverty, and the Well-Being of Nations, identified the Canadian Index of Wellbeing as his preferred model for measuring wellbeing and identified its ability to start conversations as a key benefit. By placing wellbeing at the heart of policy conversations, a common vision is created and solutions that cut across silos emerge. Rather than relying solely on government to lead, cross-sector collaborations are forming to build consensus, set priorities, and empower communities to tackle the issues they care about most.

According to Mike Salvaris, “developing a new progress paradigm and new measures is, in part, a civic and democratic task that requires the engagement of citizens, working with academics, scientists and policy makers.”[3] Far beyond just providing a companion to GDP, the CIW is an opportunity to enhance our democratic processes.


VIII. Shifting the conversation


In a world of big data and systems thinking, we can see why GDP is insufficient. By highlighting interactions among domains, benchmarking current levels of wellbeing, helping to set priorities, engaging stakeholders, and measuring the impact of policies, Canada’s globally-recognized CIW provides a robust and valid framework to capture quality of life.

It’s time to apply a broader, more holistic, longer term lens that puts people and their wellbeing at the heart of the conversation. The CIW can help policy makers do just that.


BRYAN SMALE, PH.D., is the Director of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing housed in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo (UW), a Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies with a cross-appointment to the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at UW, and a Research Faculty Associate in the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience.

DOMINIQUE O’ROURKE, M.A., is the principal of Accolade Communications which provides strategic communications planning and execution for national non-profit, private and public sector organizations.

[1] Canadian Index of Wellbeing. (2016). How are Canadians Really Doing? The 2016 CIW National Report. Waterloo, ON: Canadian Index of Wellbeing and University of Waterloo. Available at:
[2] Bernstein, J. (2018, February). The Growth Delusion: An Interview with David Pilling. The Washington Post, February 28, 2018. Available at:
[3] Salvaris, M. (2013). Measuring the kind of Australia we want: The Australian National Development Index, Gross Domestic Product and the global movement to redefine progress. The Australian Economic Review, 46, 1, 78-91.


Case Study


In January 2018, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Tracey Crouch to be the country’s first Minister for Loneliness. The appointment comes as the UK is facing a growing loneliness problem. Indeed, many are citing loneliness as a core concern and much greater a risk than many may first perceive. Mark Robinson, the Chief Officer of Age UK, states that loneliness can be so consequential that it can lead to death.[1] The new Loneliness Minister position is not unique, and as will be shown in this issue, addressing and acting upon community wellbeing is gaining traction at all levels of government.


Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study

Letter from the Editor
Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief

Green & Prospering Communities

Despite the machinations of some global leaders, the world appears to be united in its resolve to slow the tide of climate change. The science is clear and the impact of climate change on our towns and cities is all too apparent. What is less clear is the best approach for stemming the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the rise in global temperatures. The developing world seeks to propel its economic growth, pulling citizens out of poverty along the way. The developed world struggles with rising debt levels and declining and aging populations. Urbanization continues at a rapid pace across the entire globe. The question is: how can we support the continued growth in prosperity for our communities, while contributing to climate change mitigation efforts? Does economic growth have to be diametrically opposed to greening our towns and cities? Furthermore, how can we build green and prospering communities that are resilient and adaptive to increasingly inclement global weather patterns?

The 2017 Q4 issue of the Digest is devoted to case studies and innovation in climate change adaptation efforts at the community level. From climate change mitigation projects to resiliency planning, municipal leaders across North America are stepping up to ensure that their respective communities have a green AND prosperous future. It is evident from curating this issue that there is no shortage of great ideas when it comes to marrying municipal sustainability goals with opportunities for economic growth. Laura McDowell, York Region’s Director of Environmental Promotion & Protection, discussed the impact of her municipality’s waste management master plan on not only reducing waste in the region, but also incentivizing prosperous growth. Under their waste management plan is the Good Food Program, where York Region is working to reduce food waste through connecting residents with local food producers, thereby also providing strategic support to the region’s food production sector. “The more you know about where your food comes from, the less likely you will be to waste it.”

In Toronto, the City’s Chief Resilience Officer Elliott Cappell is tasked with bringing various departments and experts together to plan for a more resilient city, capable of withstanding all kinds of “shocks and stresses”, including, of course, climate change. But according to Elliott, Toronto’s resiliency efforts should be tailored to the specific needs of individual neighbourhoods, taking in to consideration the economic disadvantages facing some Torontonians that will only be exacerbated by climate change. “How can we build resilience at the neighbourhood level? If [this question is] answered, the quality of life and quality of experience with infrastructure and services will improve for all Torontonians, and especially for the city’s most vulnerable.”

In 2015, Oxford County committed to a 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2050, becoming the first municipality in Ontario to do so, and the second in Canada after Vancouver. Working with Smart Energy Oxford – a coalition of municipalities, sustainable energy businesses, and local distribution companies – Oxford County is already seeing the economic potential of going green. “Establishing Oxford County as a testing ground for green technology has substantial economic benefit” explains Oxford’s Zachary Cox.

With unprecedented support from provincial/territorial and national governments for local sustainability and climate change adaptation initiatives – as discussed in this issue by Ministers Sohi and Carr, as well as PSD’s Stefanie Fisher – now is the time for local governments to start planning AND implementing their plans for a greener and more prosperous tomorrow.

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
Public Sector Digest 

Case Study

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief


Canada is known for many things, including cold winters, skilled hockey players, and a penchant for politeness. What Canadians may not know is that we are also becoming internationally recognized as leaders in municipal asset management. Other jurisdictions have been building asset management capacity and frameworks for years – New Zealand Asset Management Support (NAMS), for instance, is a non-profit group that has developed asset management resources that are referenced around the world. In the UK, public utilities, such as Scottish Water, have developed sophisticated approaches to physical asset management, supported by the UK-based Institute of Asset Management (IAM). It is in Canada, however, that federal, provincial and territorial, and local governments have worked collaboratively to build momentum in municipal asset management maturity development.

Today, national, state, and local governments around the world are turning to Canada to learn best practices in municipal asset management. In the United States, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality studied Ontario’s asset management regulation – O. Reg. 588/17 – in preparation of its own asset management requirements, and now Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency is following suit (see the Ohio EPA’s contribution in this issue). At the time of publication of this issue, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) – an independent agency in the legislative branch of the federal government – was conducting research into asset management best practices and challenges around the world. A team from the GAO visited Canada to learn from industry leaders, including stops at the City of Hamilton and the City of Ottawa, and at the offices of PSD and FCM.

From the introduction of dedicated municipal asset management funding to the development of robust communities of practice, asset management maturity development is well underway at the local level in Canada. This development, however, is not uniform across regions and municipalities. Not surprisingly, each jurisdiction in Canada has its own approach to asset management capacity development. While Ontario has introduced a municipal asset management regulation – with established deadlines for strategic asset management policies and plans – the Government of Nova Scotia is working to develop an asset management system and framework to be provided to municipalities from the top- down. In some parts of the country, municipalities are banding together to share ideas and resources and derive greater value from asset management capacity building initiatives (see in this issue Asset Management Yukon Style). In other parts, municipalities are pushing the boundaries of traditional asset management, incorporating climate change considerations into frameworks and introducing advanced software for greater analytical capabilities.

This issue of the Public Sector Digest features case studies in municipal asset management innovation from coast to coast. From the Township of Langley’s centralized asset management model to Halifax Water’s approach to evidence-based infrastructure planning, this issue is both a celebration of asset management excellence in Canada and a source of inspiration for those communities just getting started. Canadian municipalities still have much to learn about building robust asset management teams and implementing sustainable asset management programs. But, as our trail blazers discuss throughout this issue, it is important to celebrate progress along the way to keep up momentum and continue to build corporate-wide buy-in for asset management. PSD’s own asset management experts strive to continue learning and improving our asset management consulting and software deliverables for municipalities. As we fan out across the country this spring to attend a series of municipal conferences (including CNAM, CAMA and FCM), we invite you to stop by our booth to tell us your community’s asset management story. We’ll see you on the road.

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
Public Sector Digest 

Case Study


Asset management as a municipal practice has largely been the responsibility of either finance or public works professionals for many years. In some Canadian municipalities, finance officers answered the asset management call to action in response to PSAB 3150. What began as a tangible capital asset accounting exercise transformed into finance departments leading the push for greater asset management maturity in their respective municipalities. In other communities, while finance took responsibility for fulfilling PSAB accounting requirements, it was the public works department that assumed a leadership role in asset management capacity building.

Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


Asset Management is an interesting term. Many definitions are published, and most are more confusing than helpful. We have managed our assets and our built environment in our communities for decades. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid over the last several decades to aging infrastructure and the need for upgrades, renewal, and replacement. Our assets exist to provide the basis for service delivery to our residents and visitors. We have, since the inception of our communities, managed assets on a day-to-day basis, with little or no attention paid to the longer term.

Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


In February in Southern Ontario, a warm week – combined with high levels of precipitation –  submerged many parts of the region underwater, leading to terrifying scenarios like the one captured in the excerpt below. According to, reports of flooding stretched across Southern Ontario, including London, Waterloo, Cambridge, Dunnville, St. Marys, Chatham-Kent and Orangeville; flood warnings, watches, and outlooks were issued for 23 regions in Ontario between February 16th and February 21st.[i] As of February 22nd, 2,200 homes and nearly 5,000 residents had been displaced in Brantford, Ontario – a community hit particularly hard by the flooding of the Grand River.

Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


Ohio Environmental Protection Agency considers asset management to be an important piece of running public water systems. Requiring asset management has been a long time in the making, even as Ohio EPA has seen the frequency and severity of disruptions of service increase in recent years. From the 2015 harmful algal bloom incident in Toledo to the 2016 system wide depressurization in Gallipolis, the challenges of managing aging water systems have proven that a more comprehensive, long term approach is necessary. Many water systems are in need of repair due to years of deferred maintenance and inadequate investments to pay for these needed repairs.

Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


In 2017, Public Sector Digest (PSD), Canadian Water Network (CWN), and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) partnered on a national study of municipal asset management practices to identify and assess what data is being collected on water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure, and how this information is being used to inform operations, maintenance, and long-term planning decisions. This study provides results of a national survey of municipal asset managers and water system managers, and also features two in-depth case studies. The following article is an excerpt from the full report, which is available for download here




Federal, provincial, and local governments, together with municipal associations, non-governmental organizations, and industry experts, are striving to build asset management capacity across the country. Canada is emerging as a global leader in municipal asset management, but there is still much work to be done. The results of this study indicate that an increasing number of municipalities in Canada are adopting and following asset management plans to manage their water, wastewater, and stormwater assets. However, current regulations and funding incentives have placed greater emphasis on the completion of asset management plans rather than optimal data generation, which has resulted in a gap in the quality of municipal asset data.

As Canada’s local governments work to build more sustainable and resilient water systems, more accurate and reliable asset data will be critical for informing long-term infrastructure planning and maintenance decisions.




A national survey was sent to municipal water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities/departments across Canada in the spring of 2017. The 23-question survey was designed by the PSD, CWN, and CWWA joint research team, with input from a national advisory committee of experts and practitioners. Fifty-nine municipalities, which provide water, wastewater, and stormwater services to 53 percent of Canada’s population, completed the survey. The municipalities who responded had populations ranging from 153 to 2.8 million people and were located in all ten provinces.

After reviewing the survey results, the research team conducted interviews with municipalities and utilities that had more advanced asset management programs. Valuable information was extracted on best practices, which is highlighted here in two case studies.


III. Executive Summary


The purpose of this national study was to better understand the current state of asset data collection and analysis in Canada as it relates to municipal water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure and to identify strategies to improve operation, maintenance, and planning outcomes.

The study focused on the capacity side of asset management planning rather than technical practices. In the past, several national studies — including the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card — have measured the state of municipal infrastructure in Canada, but few have looked at the state of asset management planning and implementation.

The results of the national survey show Canadian municipalities are increasingly employing asset management practices; however, smaller municipalities consistently reported having less dedicated resources for implementation. While this reduced capacity provides challenges for municipalities to achieve operations, maintenance, and planning outcomes, the majority of survey respondents — both large and small — indicated that improving the quality and reliability of their asset data would be the most effective strategy to reduce reactive maintenance and improve outcomes. The majority of survey respondents indicated that subjective analysis (e.g., relying on age-based asset data) is used to gather a good portion of the asset information in their databases. A majority also reported that accurate (or actual) condition assessments were not being collected. Thirty-eight percent of surveyed municipalities reported having condition data for more than 75 percent of their vertical assets, while only 28 percent have condition data for more than 75 percent of their linear assets (see Figure 1).



Without a sufficient level of confidence in collected asset data, it is difficult to get an accurate view of the state of infrastructure and operations, which makes it more challenging to make sound decisions. When asked to report on the approximate reliability of captured condition data for water system assets, 65 percent of respondents indicated that 50 percent or less is objective data (i.e., accurate field condition data).

Municipalities of all sizes indicated that the most important data for developing long-term infrastructure plans, informing planned maintenance activities, and reducing reactive maintenance activities is assessed condition data, which emphasizes the need for good data collection practices (see Figure 2). When asked what percentage of recent asset maintenance, repairs, and replacements have been attributed to reactive decision-making, 39 percent of respondents indicated that more than 50 percent of decisions were reactive.

Both large and small municipalities/utilities rely more heavily on reactive and time-based asset interventions rather than proactive interventions. The higher proportion of reactive maintenance may reflect the current state of infrastructure (i.e., asset types that are better suited for reactive maintenance may be in greater need of intervention), more so than municipal asset management capacity or the current maturity of asset management practices. Despite this, more reactive asset interventions can limit a municipality or utility’s ability for longer-term planning.

Nevertheless, greater access to more high-quality condition data enables utilities to reduce reactive maintenance activities where appropriate. However, it is inefficient and potentially costly to collect high-quality condition data on every aspect of a water system, especially on components that provide little ability to predict maintenance needs. Finding the right balance between collecting high-quality condition data and understanding when other less-intensive means of data collection and analysis may be sufficient is an important aspect to implementing effective asset management practices.



The Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP) provides funding for municipalities to conduct condition assessments to improve asset data quality and accuracy. Condition assessment protocols and data-gathering tools can also assist municipalities and utilities in collecting, sorting, and using condition data more efficiently. Better asset data, supported by stronger asset management practices, serves to optimize lifecycle activity planning for an organization, and can also facilitate the effective prioritization of asset investments. When asked how water system investment decisions are currently being prioritized, 83 percent of respondents reported using a risk-based approach (financial, regulatory, and technical risks) and another 52 percent reported using an asset lifecycle costing approach to investment prioritization. Nearly one-quarter of respondents (22%) indicated that they are utilizing a completely reactive approach to investment decisions.

While larger municipalities and utilities typically have dedicated asset management staff, the survey results indicated that smaller municipalities (<80,000 population) have limited capacity to collect, analyze, and make use of asset data to inform infrastructure decision making (see Figure 3). When asked about the staff duties associated with asset management, the majority of respondents indicated that staff have a combination of key responsibilities, including collecting and managing asset data, using data for planning, and collaborating with other departments for decision making.



Asset management software can also assist municipalities and utilities with hosting cross-departmental asset data in one place and facilitating efficient and frequent updates to asset data. Ninety percent of survey respondents reported that they are using specialized software for various asset management functions. 51 percent of survey respondents have completed an asset management plan, but only 19 percent update their plan on an annual basis.





Halifax Water has been responsible for the region’s drinking water systems since 1996. In 2007, wastewater and stormwater assets were transferred from Halifax Regional Municipality, and the utility became responsible for over $4 billion worth of assets. We spoke to some of their senior decision makers about the utility’s asset management program and how it is used to inform long-term capital and maintenance decisions.


Carl Yates, General Manager


How has asset management evolved within your utility?

Asset management has certainly ramped up quite a bit in the past few years. We’ve always had an asset management program, but since 2007, it has taken on a much more significant role because there is so much more to keep track of. The other thing to recognize is that Halifax Water has an economic and business regulator: The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. From that perspective, we are unique; we are one of only two regulated water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities in the country.


What advice would you give to other utilities about putting asset management programs into place? 

At a high level, I always tell people to start with governance. The fact that we have a regulator that takes a very objective approach to our business helps us to perform over the long term. The system we have in Halifax has been recommended as a best practice, but not all utilities have gone there because it takes political will. If you can get your governance right, you can look longer-term, which is key to a sustainable approach.


Jamie Hannam, Director of Engineering


Can you explain the process of updating your asset inventory data? 

Our core approach is to be transactional with a maintenance activity or a capital program. For example, we have a capital program to replace a watermain or sewer, and one of the business processes on the way back into the office is to update the GIS and record drawings, which also gets flagged to be updated in our asset management processes. It is the same as if we are doing a maintenance activity; the work order that was sent out would be flagged and changed in our records.

However, we are still working on the data gaps. For example, with gravity sewers, we have a multi-year program where we are completing a volume of CCTV inspections to continue to build the condition data. With anywhere that is stable, we are making updates on a transactional basis.



When Ontario Regulation 588/17 was introduced, the City of Guelph allocated resources to build out a cross-functional asset management team. We had an opportunity to sit down with their Manager of Corporate Asset Management to learn more about Guelph’s approach.


Daryush Esmaili, Manager of Corporate Asset Management


Tell us about asset management in the City of Guelph.

The City did not have a dedicated corporate asset management division until March 2016. We observed that there were pockets of excellence across the organization, so one of our first tasks was to pull that information together, look at it from a corporate perspective, and identify the strengths and opportunities for improvement. We created our first corporate asset management plan with an integrated capital budget for right-of-way infrastructure: water, wastewater, stormwater, roads, and transportation and presented this to City Council at a workshop. There are many different ways to structure the governance of a corporate asset management program, but we have found it effective having champions in each area across the organization.


What was the objective of your AMP?

In our first AMP, the initial focus was to pull information from across the organization into a single document and summarize not only condition and current investment levels versus required investment, but also to document an action plan to improve asset management. Once we had compiled the data, we established a confidence ranking scale for the data and ranked each line item. This allowed us to communicate the overall confidence of our analysis. Pulling all of these things together is what we focused on, knowing that key areas of the action plan would be establishing levels of service and quantifying risk. In the next AMP, we plan to place more emphasis on the impact of funding decisions on levels of service.


What value does accurate condition data bring to asset management?

I think there will always be the need to develop updated inventories and condition assessments periodically, but our goal is to build a business process so that the inventory is updated on an ongoing basis. We have an annual condition assessment program for linear wastewater and stormwater assets. We’ve increased our inspections and intend to inspect the full inventory within the next three years. We are also in the process of completing a risk management study on our linear water, wastewater, and stormwater networks. This study includes evaluating system hydraulics and the number of customers that would be impacted if certain assets fail; what the consequences of the failure would be; and the likelihood of failure. The project will help define strategies to manage the risk or understand the likelihood of failure through specific inspection or monitoring programs.




Strong leadership and a proactive agenda over the last decade has led, in part, to the increased adoption of asset management plans in Canadian municipalities/utilities, and Canada's emergence as a global leader in this area. Yet, the findings in this study indicate that there is still much work to do to improve the quality of asset data in plans. An opportunity exists for governments and other leaders to support a stronger focus on instituting optimal data collection methodology and building capacity to maintain data collection on an ongoing basis. Reviewing condition data collection practices, conducting a data inventory gap analysis, and formalizing a governance framework for asset management can also be a great place for local governments to start building maturity in their asset management programs. Ultimately, asset management is about doing the right thing, to the right asset, at the right time. Good quality data will help support decisions and lend confidence to municipalities/utilities that the right decisions for operations, maintenance, and planning are being made.

Download the full National Report here

PSD is a consulting firm that specializes in enterprise asset management and budgeting for local governments. Their capabilities include research, consulting and software. PSD’s research division produces a monthly digital and quarterly print publication – the Public Sector Digest – as well as webinars, case studies, applied research projects and the Municipal Resource Centre.  

Canadian Water Network is Canada’s trusted broker of research insights for the water sector. When decision makers ask, ‘What does the science say about this?’ they frame what is known and unknown in a way that usefully informs the choices being made.

Canadian Water and Wastewater Association is a non-profit national body representing the common interests of Canada’s public sector municipal water and wastewater services and their private sector suppliers and partners.


Case Study


The City of Saint John has been actively working to help develop a comprehensive Asset Management Program (AMP) including practices across the organization and City Agencies, Boards and Commissions. To meet current and future infrastructure needs and address infrastructure challenges, in 2016, Common Council identified the Asset Management Program as the top priority to optimize and prioritize infrastructure investment.


"The City’s approach was unique in that it focused on customizing the AM Program to the way that the City does business, as opposed to adapting to solutions developed by others." 


The objectives of the AMP as per the City of Saint John Asset Management Policy are as follows, but not limited to:

  • Improve the reliability of customer service by maintaining clearly defined levels of service
  • Improve the decisions related to the management of the City’s assets
  • Improve the transparency and accountability of community investments in the management of the City’s assets
  • Improve the management of the City’s exposure to risks of reduced service delivery
  • Facilitate the leveraging of partnerships and infrastructure funding from external sources


The City currently maintains an extensive inventory of public infrastructure across multiple service areas. Based on the 2016 State of the Infrastructure (SOTI) report, the City’s infrastructure situation is as follows:

  • Replacement cost is estimated to be $2.2 billion
  • Infrastructure deficit is over $433 million
  • 48% of assets are in a condition of fair or worse
  • Investment gap of over $37 million per year


In addition, the City is facing a number of infrastructure challenges, including:

  • Maintaining a stable and sustainable water rate;
  • No long-term capital investment plans;
  • Formalized risk management is not integrated into decision making;
  • Levels of service are not defined, or cost implications understood;
  • Inability to fully understand the consequences of decision making; and
  • Little integrated decision making across assets.


The City’s approach was unique in that it focused on customizing the AM Program to the way that the City does business, as opposed to adapting to solutions developed by others. The City uses a Top-Bottom multi-phased approach based on best practices such as the IIMM and Asset Management BC Framework and involves continuous improvement. This approach embedded AM into the City’s culture by involving operation staff, managers, senior leadership and Council, and proved successful in building enthusiastic understanding about the benefits of AM. The City’s approach can be easily adopted by municipalities across Canada.


Saint John, New Brunswick

The City’s AM Program approach involves the following:

  1. Development of an AM Policy (approved in 2017)

The purpose of this Policy is to:

  • Establish the organization’s commitment to asset management practices
  • Set out clear direction and guidance for Council and staff for undertaking the asset management process
  • Incorporate climate change risk into decision making
  • Ensure the approach to asset management is integrated throughout the organization and aligned with high level council objectives


  1. Strategy Document approved by the Senior Leadership Team

The strategy sets the direction from senior management to department staff for improving and sustaining asset management practices and ensures these practices are applied consistently across the organization. The following strategies were identified and adopted to develop and implement asset management practices as part of Phase 2 of the City’s AM Program across the organization:

  • Improve departmental interaction
  • Improve data sharing
  • Improve data software
  • Define asset risks
  • Define performance metrics
  • Define asset renewal and replacement needs
  • Lengthen planning horizon


In addition, the strategy includes the following:

  • Governance Structure: A governance structure for AM implementation in the City was adopted as a foundational component of the asset management program. It provides an organizational structure for the development of asset management tools, guidelines and processes, as well as oversight for their application across the organization.
  • Asset Management Framework: A multi-dimensional AM framework was adopted by the City as a foundational structure for the AM program.


  1. Detailed assessment of the current state of the City’s AM practices


  1. City of Saint John Roadmap and Task Tracking Schedule

The Roadmap document identifies detailed activities, scope of work, level of effort and deliverables for the various strategies, activities and tasks, along with the duration to help achieve the AM strategies and objectives as indicated in the City of Saint John’s AM policy and strategy.


The Roadmap is structured in five streams of activity. The following are general descriptions of the proposed activities or work as indicated in the AM Roadmap:

  • Life Cycle Management including risk assessment
  • Asset Management Workflow and Resources
  • Asset Management Tools (data management)
  • Asset Management Monitoring and Reporting
  • Individual Department Improvement Activities


  1. The SOTI report

The report will be used as a tool to communicate to the public, council and staff the challenges of managing the City’s infrastructure in a sustainable manner. The report will include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and will identify the need to adjust level of service, funding levels and operation effort. It will also provide justification for the City’s priorities and decisions, which will assist with public education and acceptance.

The City’s objective is to implement a comprehensive asset management program by 2020. However, we foresee major challenges in advancing AM, including the demand on staff resources and potential loss of interest in AM by Council and the public. To address these issues, the City has and will retain private sector resources and hire additional staff to facilitate delivery of certain components. Components include the asset condition and risk assessment program to build a better asset database, to communicate a realistic AM implementation schedule, to manage expectations, and to annually report on the state of the infrastructure repair and the risks to service delivery.


SAMIR YAMMINE, P.Eng, is the Manager of Asset and Energy Management for the City of Saint John, NB. He received his Bachelor degree in electrical engineering and completed the two years Master of Electrical engineering coursework from Dalhousie University in 1990. His responsibilities include providing strategic leadership and direction to the Senior Leadership Team and Common Council in developing and implementing the Corporate Asset and Energy Management Programs across the City of Saint John organization. Samir has developed, implemented and managed over 100 sustainable environmental and asset management initiatives on new and existing city infrastructure.


Case Study


When embarking on a new journey, it is prudent that you set your sights on a clear destination in order to identify and navigate the best possible route. The same can be said for embarking on or continuing an asset management journey. While the current level of focus on asset management as a discipline has gained momentum over the past two decades, organizations have managed the lifecycle of physical assets for hundreds of years. What makes the current focus different? That there is a clear emphasis on ensuring that assets are managed in the best possible way to ensure target levels of service are being met. In order to do this, it is important for us to chart the best course, and that is where the asset management policy comes in.

Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


Like so many municipalities across Canada, the small Town of Minto, Ontario is faced with the challenge of a looming infrastructure deficit. As documented in the most recent 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, a reported 35 percent of municipal assets in this country are in fair, poor, or very poor condition – amounting to a $1.1 trillion replacement cost.[i] We know all too well that municipalities are restricted when increasing their property tax and given that the property tax is the main source of revenue for municipalities, it’s easy to conclude that communities are strapped for cash. The question then remains: what is the solution to the municipal infrastructure deficit?


“The collaboration between finance, public works and the executive throughout the multi-year RoadMap process encourages strategic dialogue and organizational cohesiveness.”


The Canadian Infrastructure Report Card’s answer was clear: asset management is a significant part of the solution, placing greater emphasis on reinvestment during an asset’s lifespan. Unfortunately, as of 2016, only 35 percent of small communities in Canada had an asset management plan (AMP) in place. With increased asset management capacity, a municipality is better equipped to make more strategic decisions about asset lifecycle activities and the prioritization of infrastructure investments. The ultimate goal of asset management is to enable municipalities with better data, capacity and process to do the right thing to the right asset at the right time, thereby reducing costly reactive maintenance activities and protecting communities from making short-sighted investment decisions.

As a first step toward addressing its infrastructure deficit, the Town of Minto began to develop its own asset management program in 2016, consulting with PSD to build policies, processes and strategies as part of an Asset Management RoadMap. PSD had the opportunity to sit down with Minto’s Gordon Duff, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and Mike McIssac, Roads Foreman to discuss how asset management has evolved in the Town of Minto. While Minto has not yet fully completed the RoadMap, it has embraced asset management with open arms and the positive outcomes of the RoadMap process are already being recognized.  


I. The Asset Management RoadMap


With the introduction of grant funding and legislative requirements for asset management planning across Canada, municipalities have turned their attention to completing an asset management plan (AMP) to meet mandated deadlines. Although the AMP is certainly an instrumental tool in a broader municipal asset management program, when completed without the support of accurate asset data or asset management policies and procedures, communities run the risk of producing a document that has ill-informed recommendations and limited corporate buy-in. With the Asset Management RoadMap, PSD’s asset management consultants work alongside municipal staff and department heads to establish and improve their asset management practice. The collaboration between finance, public works and the executive throughout the multi-year RoadMap process encourages strategic dialogue and organizational cohesiveness.



The RoadMap, with eight distinct steps along a path to asset management maturity, culminates in a comprehensive AMP that is informed by more accurate, up-to-date asset data, supported by policy, process and tools that achieve greater sustainability and buy-in for the municipality’s asset management program.


II. Current State of Maturity


The State of Maturity assessment is the first step of the Roadmap, providing town staff with an overview and analysis of the current state of their asset management program, determining what data has been collected and the quality of that data. Accurate and reliable asset data is the backbone of asset management, and incomplete and unreliable data can greatly impair the asset management process. In other words, if a municipality does not have a solid foundation of reliable asset data it doesn’t matter what processes or strategies it implements, as it is not reflective of the current state of infrastructure. Therefore, one of the key steps to improving asset management is enhancing the processes and protocols that guide data collection.

As was the case for most municipalities in Canada, asset management first became a priority in Minto in 2008 with the introduction of PSAB 3150. Gordon Duff states that at the time, administration was able to make a comprehensive list of all tangible capital assets owned by the Town – a daunting task for a small municipality with no dedicated asset management personnel. Minto is a small mixed urban-rural municipality with a population of roughly 9,500. In 1999, the Township of Minto, Town of Harriston, Village of Clifford and Town of Palmerston amalgamated to become what is now known as the Town of Minto. The newly formed municipality inherited an overwhelming amount of assets – more than what the population needs. According to Gordon, the Town has three water systems, three sanitary systems, and three fire stations.

When Minto staff participated in the State of Maturity Assessment Workshop, it became evident that there was a significant gap in their asset inventory. Gordon noted that the biggest challenge facing the Town is collecting asset data without the luxury of dedicated asset management staff. One of the core recommendations PSD provided was to better improve data collection practices. Imperative to quality data collection is encouraging all department heads to confirm their asset inventory is accurate. Indeed, the communication between departments and administration in the Town of Minto is one of the Town’s greatest strengths and one of the keys to continue improving asset management outcomes moving forward.

An estimated 75 percent of the Town of Minto’s infrastructure is managed by its public works department. Heading that department is Mike McIssac who has been instrumental in enhancing the quality and reliability of the Town’s asset data. In 2016, the Town of Minto completed a Roads Need Study that provided more up-to-date and quality condition data on its road network. Several national studies, including the new report by PSD, Canadian Water Network and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association included in this issue, confirm the value that accurate assessed condition data brings to an asset management program.

With a better understanding of the current state of maturity in asset management in Minto, the municipality was able to adopt a brand new Strategic Asset Management Policy that will help shape the governance and outcomes of their program for years to come. Gordon noted that their Council has been very supportive of the Town’s asset management activities.


III. Risk & Lifecycle Models


Implementing a network-wide risk management framework allows communities to rank and rate the level of risk associated with its infrastructure. This helps communities prioritize capital projects and decide which assets a municipality works on first, highlighting how the “worst-first” approach is never the best course of action when deciding which assets need to be replaced or rehabilitated. Instead, when determining priority capital projects, the consequence of failure (and not just the probability of failure) ought to be considered. To provide an example, determining asset risk could involve the analysis of factors such as the road environment (urban, semi-urban, rural); surface material (gravel vs. asphalt); the diameter of a water pipe; and land use factors, to name a few.

It is also important to develop lifecycle activity strategies that determine the optimal time to rehabilitate or replace assets in order to achieve the lowest total cost of ownership. In other words, it’s about determining how to maximize the life of an asset at the lowest cost to the municipality. PSD worked alongside Minto’s public works staff to develop customized risk profiles and lifecycle activity strategies, built into the Town’s asset management database, to help project future lifecycle requirements and capital investment needs. These strategies will be a key component for internal staff in determining an annual lifecycle activity schedule and will also play a vital role in the development of the Town’s AMP. 

Figure 2 provides an example of a lifecycle model that was developed for an asphalt road surface in Minto.

Figure 2 Deterioration Curve for HCB Roads in Minto’s Lifecycle Model – The first curve demonstrates that the asset will reach the end of its useful life at 30 years with no rehabilitation. The second curve, featuring regular preventative maintenance and two rehabilitations (at 15 and 30 years), shows that the asset won’t reach the end of its useful life until 60 years, saving Minto significant capital costs over the long run.


Fifteen years after the road’s initial replacement, a mill and resurface – considered a “capital rehabilitation” – is scheduled to extend the life of the road surface, with a second round of rehabilitation scheduled for another 15 years later. In performing these activities and investing in the road surface earlier in its lifecycle, the asset’s total lifecycle cost is greatly minimized. The two targeted rehabilitations provide 60 years of useful life for the asset, whereas completing a full replacement of the asset without rehabilitations would only provide 30 years of useful life. Once the lifecycle model is applied to the whole road network, the total cost avoidance on roads capital projects can be calculated.

In Minto, the lifecycle model reduced their estimated annual capital requirement for roads capital costs by a significant percent. The actual cost avoidance achieved will depend on the municipality’s ability to implement the full lifecycle model and engage in all scheduled lifecycle events. Regardless, with a lifecycle model in place, Minto is able to plan optimal preventative maintenance and rehabilitation activities to reduce costs and limit reactive maintenance activities. A lifecycle approach to asset management also contributes to a greater average condition of an asset over its full lifecycle, translating into greater levels of service experienced by residents.    

When asked how the public works team is responding to the new lifecycle approach to maintenance, Mike explained that there has definitely been a shift in attitude. While it might have once seemed silly to rehabilitate a busy road that had just been milled and resurfaced only two years ago, before resurfacing a country road mired with potholes, the decision now seems entirely logical once backed with data and process. “Being a small municipality, our workers are beginning to understand the value of preventative maintenance. There are certain roads that may seem more obvious to fix first, but then they realize that there may be other roads to fix that better suit our funds available. That is, understanding the difference between a major capital repair versus reconstruction and maintenance.”


IV. Moving Forward


Moving forward, Gordon and Mike report that their sanitary sewer system and road network are two of the key asset categories that the Town will be focusing on from an asset management perspective. Further, when asked about the future of asset management in the Town of Minto, Gordon notes that a person solely dedicated to asset management will soon be needed to maintain all their asset data. He also notes that it will be important that the Town’s asset management activities meet the requirements of O. Reg. 588/17 – Ontario’s newly implemented asset management regulation for municipalities. Gordon also stresses the importance of building a sustainable asset management program: “The main message I try to hammer home is you’re never complete when it comes to asset management. It is an ongoing function and it requires a significant investment of staff and capital to keep the progress going.”

Mike notes that data collection needs to remain a core priority for the Town. He states, “the major benefit of having an asset management program is bringing the whole picture to the forefront … having the capability to understand and keep tabs on our assets is really beneficial. A lot of the rate payers and the general public do not realize the magnitude of the dollar values that are needed to be able to maintain the municipality. An asset management program brings a lot of issues to light and helps stretch our tax dollars to their fullest potential.”

One of the final components of this phase of Minto’s asset management journey will require staff to begin viewing asset management through a more service-focused lens. Recent developments in municipal asset management have placed a greater emphasis on understanding how assets produce service outcomes. As part of PSD’s RoadMap, the Town began this process through the development of their first Levels of Service Framework – the goal of which is to track and evaluate their ability to provide accessible, reliable, safe, affordable and sustainable services to the community. Through the tracking of key performance indicators, Town staff hope to be better equipped to identify the role that assets play in service delivery and identify opportunities to improve their service offerings now and into the future. Once current service levels are determined for each asset class, the Town can begin the process of citizen engagement to work towards establishing desired levels of service. At the end of the RoadMap, Minto will have a comprehensive and data-rich AMP that includes an Infrastructure Report Card for all asset categories, an asset management strategy, and a financial strategy to meet the infrastructure challenge over the medium and long term.


“The major benefit of having an asset management program is bringing the whole picture to the forefront … having the capability to understand and keep tabs on our assets is really beneficial. A lot of the rate payers and the general public do not realize the magnitude of the dollar values that are needed to be able to maintain the municipality. An asset management program brings a lot of issues to light and helps stretch our tax dollars to their fullest potential.”


The Town of Minto has made great strides in their asset management process. What was learned from their experience can be found in the words of both Gordon and Mike: asset management is an ongoing function, and its real value lies in the cost savings that it provides to the municipality and the transparency and accountability that it provides to citizens.


SLOANE SWEAZEY, MA is a Research Analyst for the Public Sector Digest. She completed her master’s degree in Political Science, specializing in Public Policy and Administration, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and International Development, both from the University of Guelph. Sloane’s research interests surround municipal governance and public policy, where she has researched community-engagement initiatives and child care policy at length. In her role, Sloane researches and writes articles for publication, while also sourcing content from external contributors. She can be reached at ssweazey [at] publicsectordigest [dot] com.


Case Study


In March 2016, the City of Kenora hosted a Community Climate Change Workshop to provide an overview of anticipated effects of climate change on Kenora and conduct a vulnerability and risk exercise to determine the City’s most pressing concerns. Three of the five impacts that ranked high related to the increased intensity of rainfall. Both internal and external stakeholders were concerned about the stress on built infrastructure caused by heavy rainfall, the increased surface runoff that could lead to erosion and landslide risk, and the reduced capacity of stormwater management that could lead to more frequent instances of flooding on private and public properties.


Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


Managing assets to meet service needs has been a challenge for many municipalities across Canada. With aging infrastructure, budget constraints, and changing customer expectations, the need to proactively manage assets is at the forefront of best practice. A crucial aspect of proactive asset management is the development of an investment planning process. The City of Regina’s Water and Sewer Utility employs a Capital Investment Planning process on an annual basis, with a framework as presented in Figure 1. Key fundamental elements include identifying the needs, developing solutions, and prioritizing projects to build a recommended plan. These elements can be as basic or advanced as needed to meet the requirements of each organization. This process allows the Utility to link investment needs to the service goals and prioritize the projects and programs that can best meet these goals in a financially sustainable and affordable manner.

This process is a risk-based approach; mitigating the risk of poor service delivery is the objective of any work/project being proposed. Risks can include availability of services, the quality and quantity of the service to be provided (e.g. water), or risks of not complying with regulation. Each of these risks will have varying degrees of consequences. The projects are categorized under two drivers – maintaining current service delivery or enhancing service delivery (e.g. growth, new regulations, or any enhancements beyond the current service level). Clearly defining the needs is integral to understanding the value of a project and the purpose it serves in meeting service goals. Needs and service goals comprise the main inputs to a business case evaluation, along with the options and funding requirements. From the business case evaluation, proposed projects are prioritized and evaluated considering risk and financial constraints to provide a robust investment plan. Being able to communicate and justify your investment plan to stakeholders (e.g. City Council) is more defensible with these pieces in place.


I. Inputs to Process


The business case evaluation comprises several elements as inputs. The elements discussed are not necessarily exhaustive of all inputs that are valuable to the process, nor is it a requirement to have all elements discussed here. Each municipality should use what they have available. Performance assessment starts with having an asset inventory, an enabler to identify critical assets and works that support service delivery. This inventory will contain asset and operational information that can be utilized for asset management decision making. Ideally, it should be linked to a GIS platform with operational records feeding in. The link with GIS means that asset information can be continually updated and linked with operational records. With a comprehensive asset inventory, data can be used to inform asset condition and performance.

Condition assessments are a key element to understanding performance and the risk of asset failure. A condition assessment can be anything from a visual inspection, the development of proxies, or following manufacturer recommendations. For example, annual water main break records can be an acceptable indicator for the physical condition of small diameter water mains. Investing in an inspection program for these less critical assets may require resources that exceed the value obtained. One of our applications of condition assessment is developing proxies using water main break records with other asset information to predict the number of future water main breaks. Prediction models are a mode of proactive asset management.

With a strong asset inventory and condition assessments available, predictive modeling is the next step for proactive work planning. Regina’s water infrastructure renewal program utilizes prediction to inform decisions about renewal work and locations chosen. One way of doing this is to develop a proxy from asset information (e.g. for water mains: number of breaks, age, material, size), which can approximate the likelihood of asset failure.


“With a strong asset inventory and condition assessments available, predictive modeling is the next step for proactive work planning.”


Consequences of these asset failures (e.g. number of affected customers, environmental impact) can then be identified. When the consequence is combined with the likelihood, the risk associated with the asset(s) can be evaluated. Having these approximations of likelihood and consequence provides service planners with a means to assess the risk of different levels of maintenance. For example, we could infer the number of water main breaks that are expected based on likelihood of failure, giving us an idea of the amount of work needed to address these expected failures. Understanding the consequence of these breaks means that preventative work should proceed on more critical pipes (e.g. large diameter supply mains) rather than less critical ones (e.g. small diameter mains). For more critical assets, such as the large diameter and supply mains, a physical inspection program may be well worth the value as it can identify significant risks. Risk assessment is proactive, because it gives the utility planners an evidence-based method to justify different levels of work. The assessment of risk, alongside defined service goals, comprises the main elements for the business case evaluation.

The needs assessment can be well defined using the risk-based approach. To evaluate a business case, the needs assessment must be linked to your service goals. Service goals give the context to the need for a project, and these can be evaluated in terms of investment drivers. The City of Regina considers four investment drivers – maintaining levels of service, enhancing levels of service, new regulation and environmental protection, and accommodating growth. Every project or program that is developed will provide benefits to at least one of these drivers. For example, our water main renewal program provides benefits to maintaining levels of service since proactive maintenance will reduce the risk of leaks/breaks, which will allow service delivery (e.g. providing potable water) to be maintained.

Business case evaluation is integral to the investment planning process. These documents utilize the elements discussed earlier – which can contain asset and service information to define the service need, benefits of work, and logistics involved. A typical business case for the water main renewal program would define the needs of this work to reduce risk and maintain reliability of the water service. Some benefits include a reduced number of main breaks and leakage. Use of the risk-based elements, such as developed condition proxies, can provide evidence to support the project’s ability to meet service goals.  The business case can recommend a variety of solutions – these can be different levels of investments, or different infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions. With benefits and costs attributed to each solution, the business case provides a means to select a recommended solution that achieves the benefits in the most cost-effective way. To address water main breaks, some solutions can consider rehabilitation methods (e.g. relining), replacement, further inspections or different ways of operating the system. All of these inputs aid in developing a robust business case that can feed into the investment planning process.


II. Process


Information from the business case evaluation is brought together in the capital investment planning (CIP) process to ensure the best value capital program is selected for funding over a 10-year planning horizon. The process takes a collaborative approach to investment decision making that enables clearer discussion of priorities as well as the risks associated with unfunded projects. A multi-criteria prioritization (MCP) model, which is based on an assessment of the benefits and costs, is used to prioritize the investments so that they are aligned to strategic goals within funding constraints.

The MCP model calculates benefit scores for each project using the primary benefits identified in the business case along with weightings that reflect the relative importance to the City of Regina and our customers. The ranked list is validated by a team of Utility personnel to confirm the relative ranking of projects and that the highest ranked projects meet corporate priorities. This conversation includes staff who are responsible for delivering the projects/services and is critical to the process to understand the risks of deferral. Creating an environment that allows the Utility personnel to challenge each other and see other perspectives is very important to ensure a robust plan is developed. Another purpose of assessing these rankings is to help identify systemic errors related to the benefits criteria and weightings. For example, we may see that a low risk project (e.g. small diameter water main rehabilitation) has a higher benefit score than a high-risk project (e.g. large diameter water main relining). This may mean that the likelihood or consequences attributed to the small diameter mains may be out of proportion, or it may mean that the benefits criteria are biased towards those attributed to small diameter mains. In order to reduce the likelihood of such systemic errors it is important to work with the business case developers to ensure they understand the anticipated benefit and scale of the proposed projects.

Once the benefits are agreed to, the projects are prioritized using the benefit scores, project costs and timing over the planning period, as well as the preliminary financial constraint to identify projects and programs that are unfunded. The team reviews each deferred project and assesses the resultant level of risk exposure to service delivery or operations. Some risks are managed by identifying appropriate mitigation strategies. Potential strategies can include increasing risk in other projects, redistributing capital funding between services, increasing Utility rates or increasing operational efforts to deploy activities such as additional operations, emergency readiness actions or communication with customers. Risks that are deemed to be unacceptable are incorporated into the plan and further adjustments and risk assessment is undertaken to develop the prioritized 10-year capital plan for financial analysis. For example, the budget available for water projects may not be sufficient to fully fund both the small diameter and large diameter water main rehabilitation programs, so the small diameter water main program may be deferred for several years to accommodate this. However, ignoring small diameter rehabilitation for many years in a row may present risks that are unmanageable. A discussion should take place that can assess what kind of deferrals are acceptable, what operational actions are required and possibly review changes to other programs to manage this risk.

Options to finance the prioritized plan are built using the 25-year Utility Financial Model. This model incorporates revenues, demand projections, and operating and capital costs to assess varying rates, debt issuance and reserve balances. Capital costs include the prioritized 10-year capital plan and expenditure projections for the remaining 15 years based on master plan studies. The budget allocated to the recommended plan should be compared to the financial model to ensure the plan is financially sustainable and affordable. This may require several iterations of revising the proposed plan, and then assessing those impacts in the financial model.


III. Outputs


The results of the CIP process are outlined in a narrative describing the proposed capital projects, unfunded projects, residual risk, expected outputs, financing requirements and the recommended plan. The projects and programs are summarized by investment drivers with discussion of the expected impact on performance objectives and level of service. The document identifies any funding shortfalls and provides an overview of scenarios to assess impacts of different financing options or service trade-offs. This document is valuable because it provides a defensible evaluation of the recommended investment plan. More detailed strategies and activities are outlined in asset management plans for water, wastewater, and drainage services. These documents allow for collaboration and communication of the service goals, and strategies in which those goals are being met.


Figure 1 Investment Planning Framework (Credit: Jacobs)


Iv. Conclusion


Regina’s Water & Sewer Utility takes a proactive approach to asset management in our capital investment planning. The process starts with identifying needs that support service goals and meet corporate objectives. The options and benefits of the proposed projects and programs are assessed consistently through business cases using inventory, performance data and forecasting, demand planning, and risk assessment.

Proposed investments are prioritized based on benefits and costs within financial constraints and the residual risk of unfunded projects and programs are assessed and thoroughly discussed to develop mitigation strategies as needed. Options to finance the recommended plan with varying rates, debt issuance, and reserve balances are developed using a 25-year Utility Financial Model. Together, the prioritized plan and financial assessment form the recommended plan and budget.

The process provides a consistent, systematic approach that ensures investment plans are linked to asset performance and the strategic goals of the organization while maintaining affordability and financial sustainability. The process continues to evolve each year as additional information becomes available and Utility staff become more comfortable with the approach. Some future considerations could assess multiple investment plans to achieve different service targets or to fit different financial scenarios.


LORETTA GETTE AND JORDAN GONDA are Senior Engineer and Engineer respectively for the Water & Sewer Utility with the City of Regina.


Case Study


Visitors to Yukon marvel at paddling down a river or driving along one of the highways without seeing swarms of people. Ranked at 9th largest in area of the provinces and territories, with a population density of .08/km², these vast expanses of unpopulated areas pose challenges for the territory’s municipalities, none closer than 154 km apart. Although all communities connect by the highway systems, sharing of infrastructure is not possible. Each municipality stands alone in providing water, wastewater, recreational facilities, and other municipal services.


“As asset management may be a stipulation for future funding, it is not an option but a priority.”


Become a member today to continue reading...

Case Study


Now more than ever in the local government setting, there is an expectation from the public to maintain a higher degree of transparency, a more inclusive, triple-bottom line approach to project prioritization, and long-term accountability for decision-making.  These challenges are among the most complex concerns that the local government sector must address. Incorporating corporate asset management into daily practices is an effective method of tackling these vast concerns. However, implementing corporate asset management into daily practices is a concept not easily tackled.

Become a member today to continue reading...