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Cities in Canadian Federalism


  • Enid Slack

    () (International Tax Program, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto)


We consider the place of cities, particularly large cities, in Canadian federalism from several perspectives. Although by most measures the current fiscal condition of Canadian cities seems fairly good, we argue that beneath this happy picture lies a less happy reality. Owing to the limited and relatively inelastic revenue base to which even the largest cities have access, the underlying basis of Canada’s urban prosperity is being eroded, with potentially damaging implications for national well-being over the long run. In an important sense, the roots of this problem lie in the fact that cities do not have any real role or voice in Canada’s federal structure. Since neither role nor voice is likely to be bestowed on them in the near future, however, we conclude by laying out a series of less fundamental actions that all levels of government have to undertake if they wish to maintain not only the present reputation of Canada’s big cities as ‘a nice place to live’ but also, more fundamentally, the urban dynamic that evidence around the world suggests increasingly underpins economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Enid Slack, 2006. "Cities in Canadian Federalism," International Tax Program Papers 0603, International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
  • Handle: RePEc:ttp:itpwps:0603

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Francois Vaillancourt & Richard M. Bird, 2005. "The Interregional Incidence of Public Budgets in Federations: Measurement Issues, Evidence from Canada, and Policy Relevance," International Tax Program Papers 0510, International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
    2. Enid Slack & Richard M. Bird, 2004. "The Fiscal Sustainability of the Greater Toronto Area," International Tax Program Papers 0405, International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
    3. Heisz, Andrew, 2005. "Ten Things to Know About Canadian Metropolitan Areas: A Synthesis of Statistics Canada's Trends and Conditions in Census Metropolitan Areas Series," Trends and Conditions in Census Metropolitan Areas 2005009e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    4. Harchaoui, Tarek & Tarkhani, Faouzi & Warren, Paul, 2003. "Public Infrastructure in Canada: Where Do We Stand?," Insights on the Canadian Economy 2003005e, Statistics Canada, Economic Analysis Division.
    5. Lars P Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2001. "The political economy of direct legislation: direct democracy and local decision-making," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(33), pages 329-367, October.
    6. Richard M. Bird & Enid Slack, 2004. "Fiscal Aspects of Metropolitan Governance," International Tax Program Papers 0401, International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
    7. Andrew Haughwout & Robert Inman & Steven Craig & Thomas Luce, 2000. "Local Revenue Hills: A General Equilibrium Specification with Evidence from Four U.S. Cities," NBER Working Papers 7603, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.

    More about this item


    cities; local fiscal conditions; intergovernmental fiscal relations; Canada;

    JEL classification:

    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • R51 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Finance in Urban and Rural Economies

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