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

Benjamin Dachis () and William Robson ()

C.D. Howe Institute Backgrounder, 2011, issue 145

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.

Keywords: Fiscal & Tax Competitiveness; Governance and Public Institutions; Urban Issues Series; Canadian municipalities; fiscal management; municipal budgets (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H7 H8 H6 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2011
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