Does Municipal Amalgamation Strengthen the Financial Viability of Local Government? A Canadian Example
Municipal amalgamation is often seen as one way to ensure that municipalities are large enough to be financially and technically capable of providing the extensive array of services with which they are charged. The idea is presumably that municipalities will be able not only to reap economies of scale, but also to coordinate service delivery over the enlarged territory as well as share costs equitably and reduce (even eliminate) spillovers of service delivery across local boundaries. This paper evaluates the extent to which municipal amalgamation in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, in 1998 achieved the provincially-stated objective of saving costs as well as its impact on taxes, financial viability, and local access and responsiveness. We conclude that the end result was the creation of a city that manages to be both too small and too big at the same time. The amalgamation probably increased the financial viability of at least the smaller and poorer municipalities in the newly created City of Toronto by increasing their access to the tax base of the amalgamated city as a whole and it also equalized local services so that everyone can enjoy a similar level of services. However, it had no significant effect on either the financial sustainability of Toronto or its capacity to deal with financial crises, nor did it achieve cost savings or solve any of the problems that the city and region faced in the last decade and continue to face in this one. The new city remains much too small to address the regional issues that plague the greater Toronto region (such as transportation and land use planning and economic development) while resulting in resulted in reduced access and participation by residents in local decision-making. On balance, it seems unlikely that anyone looking back with knowledge of the small and questionable gains that appear to have been realized would willingly have undertaken the complex, extended and painful process of metropolitan amalgamation.
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- Robert A. Mundell & Paul J. Zak, 2005. "Introduction," Chapters, in: International Monetary Policy after the Euro, chapter 1 Edward Elgar.
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