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

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Dachis & William B.P. Robson, 2011. "Holding Canada's Cities to Account: an Assessment of Municipal Fiscal Management," C.D. Howe Institute Backgrounder, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 145, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdh:backgr:145
    as

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    File URL: https://www.cdhowe.org/holding-canada%E2%80%99s-cities-account-assessment-municipal-fiscal-management
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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, issue 100, March.
    2. 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.
    3. Colin Busby & William Robson, 2013. "Canada's 2012 Fiscal Accountability Rankings," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 373, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. William B.P. Robson & Colin Busby, 2015. "By the Numbers: The Fiscal Accountability of Canada's Senior Governments, 2015," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 424, April.
    3. Christopher Ragan, 2012. "Financial Stability: The Next Frontier for Canadian Monetary Policy," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 338, January.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Andrew Feltenstein & Nour Abdul-Razzak & Jeffrey Condon & Biplab Kumar Datta, 2015. "Tax Evasion, the Provision of Public Infrastructure and Growth: A General Equilibrium Approach to Two Very Different Countries, Egypt and Mauritius," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 24(suppl_2), pages 43-72.
    8. 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.
    9. Colin Busby & William Robson, 2013. "Canada's 2012 Fiscal Accountability Rankings," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 373, February.
    10. Joseph Doucet, 2012. "Unclogging the Pipes: Pipeline Reviews and Energy Policy," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 342, February.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • H8 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt

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