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Holding Canada's Cities to Account: an Assessment of Municipal Fiscal Management

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Author Info

  • Benjamin Dachis

    (C.D. Howe Institute)

  • William B.P. Robson

    (C.D. Howe Institute)

Abstract

Cities are the most visible level of government for most Canadians, providing services such as waste collection, policing and transit. Yet their budgets are the most opaque of any level of government. Municipalities generally use accounting in their budgets that does not match what they use in their financial reports. Peering through the messy numbers reveals that most cities routinely miss budget targets by large amounts. Councillors and taxpayers who seek to hold these municipal governments to account face a daunting task. Amid the mixed record, however, are some municipalities with clearer numbers and better records for spending control. That fact, along with improvements that have occurred at the federal and provincial levels in recent years, shows that progress is possible. The authors suggest five basic reforms would create clearer, more consistent budgets and would bring the financial management of Canada’s municipalities into line with their fiscal impact and their importance in Canadians’ lives.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by C.D. Howe Institute in its journal C.D. Howe Institute Backgrounder.

Volume (Year): (2011)
Issue (Month): 145 (November)
Pages:

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Handle: RePEc:cdh:backgr:145

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Related research

Keywords: Fiscal & Tax Competitiveness; Governance and Public Institutions; Urban Issues Series; Canadian municipalities; fiscal management; municipal budgets;

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References

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  1. Reid S. Adrian & Yvan Guillemette & William B.P. Robson, 2007. "Missed Targets: Canada's 2007 Fiscal Accountability Ranking," C.D. Howe Institute Backgrounder, C.D. Howe Institute, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 100, March.
  2. Colin Busby & William Robson, 2013. "Canada's 2012 Fiscal Accountability Rankings," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 373, February.
  3. Colin Busby & Benjamin Dachis & William B.P. Robson, 2010. "Unbalanced Books: How to Improve Toronto’s Fiscal Accountability," e-briefs 103, C.D. Howe Institute.
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Cited by:
  1. Richard M. Bird, 2014. "Reflections on Measuring Urban Fiscal Health," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University paper1425, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  2. Adam Aptowitzer & Benjamin Dachis, 2012. "At the Crossroads: New Ideas for Charity Finance in Canada," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 343, March.
  3. William Robson & Colin Busby, 2014. "Credibility on the (Bottom) Line: The Fiscal Accountability of Canada's Senior Governments, 2013," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 404, March.
  4. Colin Busby & William Robson, 2013. "Canada's 2012 Fiscal Accountability Rankings," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 373, February.
  5. Joseph Doucet, 2012. "Unclogging the Pipes: Pipeline Reviews and Energy Policy," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 342, February.
  6. Christopher Ragan, 2012. "Financial Stability: The Next Frontier for Canadian Monetary Policy," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 338, January.
  7. David R. Percy, 2012. "Resolving Water-use Conflicts: Insights from the Prairie Experience for the MacKenzie River Basin," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 341, February.
  8. Benjamin Dachis & William B.P. Robson, 2014. "Baffling Budgets: The Sorry State of Municipal Fiscal Accountability in Canada," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 397, January.
  9. Ake Blomqvist & Colin Busby, 2012. "Better Value for Money in Healthcare: European Lessons for Canada," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 339, January.

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