e-Brief September 12, 2019
Recognizing the importance of political understanding in the role of senior municipal administrators in local government, the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) prepared a Political Acumen Toolkit.  This toolkit will strengthen political acumen as a core competency for CAOs, their direct reports, and the next generation of municipal leaders.  This resource can be found at politicalacumen.camacam.ca

The Political Acumen Toolkit was developed by Transitional Solutions Inc. (TSI) in collaboration with CAMA. TSI is a municipal consulting firm headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta that provides services across Canada.  TSI’s team of consultants have been in your shoes as CAOs and senior administrators and have brought their firsthand experience of political acumen in local government to the development of this toolkit.

The authors and the CAMA Political Acumen Committee made every effort to reflect the nuances of different government bodies and their requirements across the Country. However, it is always important to check your local legislation, regulations and bylaws to ensure you are aware of the requirements for each subject matter area in your Province or Territory. For example, there may be specific requirements for council orientation sessions or council agendas in each part of Canada.

While we have endeavoured to provide as many samples as possible, it is also good to check with a trusted colleague or mentor from your area to receive information on local standards.

Over the next few editions of e-Brief (and by direct e-mail to the membership) we will be featuring each topic that is offered in the toolkit. Today’s featured category is defining political acumen.

Political Acumen can be defined in many ways. CAMA members have described it as:
  • Understanding the power structures, motivations, and influences at play in the municipal decision-making process as well as the implications of these decisions at policy-making and public levels.
  • Diplomacy and the ability to navigate politically sensitive issues.
  • Bridging the technical and the political.
  • Critical thinking and emotional intelligence in the political realm.
  • Understanding the impact of politics on administration.
  • The ability to look at issues from the perspective of elected officials and anticipate public reaction.
  • Using effective communication to influence decision-making.
  • A combination of intuition and learned skills for understanding, mitigating, or influencing decisions, processes, and their impacts on a municipality.
  • Understanding the informal and social implications in addition to the fiscal and operational outcomes of decisions.
Political acumen has been defined by others as:
  • “A way of thinking and behaving;”
  • Being able to “better guide choices and behaviour in each context in order to accomplish one’s goals and objectives;” and
  • A core competency that includes “personal/self knowledge and interpersonal skills, a capacity to read people and situations, a capacity for proactive and strategic stakeholder engagement and alignment, and the ability to use environmental strategic thinking and scanning to understand the context” (Constantinou, 2017, p. 2).
In an online leadership & political acumen course offered through LinkedIn’s learning platform, Lynda.com, political acumen is described as the ability to accurately perceive and judge the formal and informal influences that shape decision-making. That is, it is about reading the situation to make decisions “based on what is really going on” (Andreatta, 2013).

What is clear from these definitions is that political acumen is not any one thing. Instead of being a single specific skill-set, it is a combination of competencies that will serve a CAO and other senior administrators in a variety of different ways. Political acuity needs to be acquired and practiced. While it may come naturally to some individuals, others will need to learn it through experience, observation, and talking to colleagues they trust and respect.

Additional Resources:
The Mentorship Forum developed as part of this toolkit can also connect you with experienced CAOs and Senior Administrators from across the Country. The Forum also includes discussion threads that can be useful for receiving a diversity of perspectives on an issue.  We invite all CAMA members to join your peers to be a mentor, a mentee or just to network and share ideas.

Do you have questions? Want more information?  Contact Jennifer Goodine, Executive Director, CAMA National Office, 1-866-771-2262, [email protected].
FCM’s Green Municipal Fund 2018–2019 Annual Report Now Online
FCM’s Green Municipal Fund 2018–2019 Annual Report is now available on their website.
The annual report showcases successful local green initiatives fueled by GMF training, resources and funding that deliver cleaner air and water, less waste, more energy efficiency and improved infrastructure. These initiatives demonstrate how action at the municipal level contributes to achieving national sustainability goals and builds better lives for Canadians.
Ontario Members: Funding Applications for Community, Culture and Recreational Projects
The Province is now accepting funding applications for projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program's (ICIP) Community, Culture and Recreation (CCR) stream. The funding will go towards investing in community, culture and recreational projects that will help deliver vital services for communities, foster greater social inclusion and improve the quality of life for residents across the province.  This program is funded by the federal and provincial governments along with eligible partners such as municipalities, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit groups, and could unlock up to $320 million in provincial funding.   Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program: Community, Culture and Recreation guidelines and application materials are available for eligible partners on the Transfer Payment Ontario website.
Using Technology To Expand Municipal Capacity
Remaining relevant and up to date on topics that surround municipalities can be a daunting task. The days of doing things the hard way seem to be in the distant past.  New technology is prevalent and cities all over the world are becoming smarter.  Smart technology is taking the world by storm enabling municipalities to become modern and efficient.  This leads to a significant savings of Time and Money.  Technology is the way of the future and as a municipality you can either adapt to remain relevant or fall behind.   The communities who are early adopters seem to profit from their choices. Investing capital into technology not only will save you money in the long run but it will ensure that your community is a leader and someone to look up to.  Not only are we going green; We’re going smart too.  A true smart city allows administrators to make informed decisions in real time.  Analytics and trending data allow you to keep up to date on current issues and hot button topics.  As technology advances so do we as a society and workforce. Enabling affordable smart technology within the municipal government is important.  Smart technology allows us to be transparent, efficient and accountable.  It will enable us to stay ahead of the curve and always relevant.   To read the BLOG click here!
Navigating Digital Transformation in Government
Skills development and a digital-first mindset are key components of meaningful change in today’s world. Find out why and explore the latest opportunities for CPAs in the public sector who are ready to embrace innovation and learn more about CPA Canada’s Public Sector Conference this year in Ottawa.
Meet Your International Colleagues in Toronto this October – Intelligent Cities Summit
Municipal leaders from 10 countries around the world will meet at this unique two-day conference here in Canada.  Confirmed speakers include:
  • CAO, City of Mississauga (Canada)
  • CTO, City of Atlanta (USA)
  • Councillor, Manchester City Council (UK)
  • Councillor, City of Vancouver (Canada)
  • Deputy CEO, Open Government of Catalonia Consortium (Spain)
  • Chief Resilience Officer and Deputy Governor, Jakarta City Government (Indonesia)
  • Deputy Mayor, City of Gdynia (Poland)
  • And many more!
For speaker overview and the agenda: Download the conference brochure
PS: Get a unique 10% off registration with code: CAMA
Conference website & registration: Intelligent Cities Summit

 Submissions for the 2019
CAMA Awards of Excellence Program

The Annual Awards Program has been designed to encourage excellence in the art of professional municipal administration.  The Program Excellence Awards recognize the achievements of local governments and their chief administrators in the development and implementation of successful programs, projects or services.  We are pleased to present the 2019 Submissions.  If you are interested in obtaining more information on the submission, CAO contact details can be found in the Member's Section.
Sort it Out, Torbay:The Town of Torbay has enacted a community engagement program to increase its recycling rates. The Sort it Out, Torbay campaign is a direct response to low recycling rates in the Town, and also represents Torbay’s goal of joining other forward-thinking communities in their mission to promote environmental responsibility on a municipal level. The program has utilized social media, signage, guerilla tactics and contests with its unique approach that features quotes from kids; recycling messages have been translated to Torbay’s citizens in a positive, creative way that has garnered results.  Recycling rates have increased in the Town and continue to improve. The program, with its positive messaging and emphasis on education and community responsibility, continues to develop and expand its reach.  Torbay Mayor Craig Scott has great praise for the campaign. He stated, “The Sort it Out initiative was launched as our way of showing and strengthening Torbay’s commitment to the environment, and the results have proven it was the right approach.”  The Sort it Out, Torbay campaign was launched by the Town of Torbay in December, 2017. Materials from the campaign can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/torbaynl/ and www.sortitouttorbay.c
CAO: Dawn Chaplin, Town of Torbay Municipality, NL
Excellence in Winter Maintenance:   Over the past three years the City of Surrey has focused on providing excellence in winter maintenance. To do this, our Engineering Department focused on six elements, materials and handling, equipment, technical improvements, training, community outreach and environment.  Examples of these efforts include:
  • Construction of strategy located depots within our communities;
  • Creating the largest provincial Road Weather Information and Automated Vehicle locator systems;
  • Construction of the Surrey Biofuel Facility to covert our organic waste to compressed natural gas to power our natural gas fleet, decreasing our carbon footprint;
  • Conversion of our fleet to be compatible with brine and prewetting technology, decreasing our salt use by up to one third, again decreasing our impacts on the environment;
  • Training our staff with industry lead technology and instructors;
  • Implemented mobile tablets to allow staff to respond in real time to service requests;
  • Creating the Province’s largest and most engaging Winter Maintenance Community Outreach program.
With the above innovations, the City of Surrey has exceed the level of service set out by our Council; guided by responsible financial and environmental leadership.
CAO: Vincent Lalonde, City of Surrey, BC
Emerging Leaders Roundtable:  The Emerging Leaders Roundtable (ELR) program was created to boost staff engagement and encourage leadership across the corporation. Headed by the City Manager, the ELR is a discussion group of top performing individuals and natural leaders below the director level.  This group provides an opportunity for individuals who are not part of the senior leadership structure to present issues and discuss potential solutions directly with the City Manager and Corporate Leadership Team to demonstrate their ideas and share their thoughts. It also presents an opportunity to further develop their leadership skills.  The ELR program provides numerous benefits and mutual growth opportunities for both the City and employees. With this program, the City is able to access an untapped talent pool that provides an infusion of new ideas, creates a positive influence on corporate culture and values and positively impacts retention and recruitment. For employee members, the program provides career advancement, mentoring and networking opportunities, and increased engagement across top performers.  This program is a natural fit with the City’s existing Continuous Improvement program and is reflective of our corporate values.

Bilan environnemental du Service du développement durable de la Ville de Plessisville:   To distinguish itself and highlight its vital forces, the City of Plessisville has chosen to position itself as a "green" city. As such, the environment is a key element of the municipal strategic plan and the City's Sustainable Development Department is spearheading it. Through the many achievements of this service, Plessisville expresses its commitment to carry out projects related to sustainable transportation and active mobility, its desire to assert itself as a smart and innovative city and its leadership in the fight against climate change. .
CAO: Alain Desjardins, Ville de Plessisville, QC
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