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Home Policy Articles: Cities & Communities: Municipal Governance


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Will We Rise to the Challenge? Eight Mega Issues Facing Canada popular

This briefing tracks eight key trends that are having a major impact on Canada’s business and public policy environment. Charles Barrett and Anne Golden point to the global economy and the consequences of competition from developing countries. They examine Canada’s relationship with the United States and the competing priorities of defence and trade. They also look at the need for investment in human capital and innovation for Canada to compete on the global stage, as well as the importance of addressing climate change and environmental issues.

2002 Comparison of Effective Residential Property Tax Levels in Major Canadian Cities

In this Frontier Centre paper Peter Holle and Daniel Klymchuk compare property tax levels in major Canadian cities, using the data to evaluate the relative residential tax burden in Winnipeg. Any comparison of taxation levels between jurisdictions is troublesome, the authors note, because differing economic conditions may distort the effects of taxation. To overcome this problem Holle and Klymchuk use effective property tax rates (rates relative to market value) and absolute tax burdens (utility charges, taxes relative to income and taxation per square foot) to make their comparisons.

Big City Revenue Sources: A Canada-U.S. Comparison of Municipal Tax Tools and Revenue Levers

Big City Revenue Sources: A Canada-U.S. Comparison of Municipal Tax Tools and Revenue Levers, by Casey Vander Ploeg of the Canada West Foundation, contributes to the debate over the fiscal squeeze facing Canadian cities by exploring the tax tools and revenue levers available to Canadian cities and comparing these to tools and levers available to American cities.

Big Spenders? An Expenditure Profile of Western Canada's Big Six

In this study, Casey Vander Ploeg explores where and how much Western Canada’s big cities spend. Vander Ploeg’s analysis focuses on the “big six” in western Canada: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, and Winnipeg. She assesses the expenditure side of each city’s budgets to determine spending on specific services, as well as what portion of fiscal resources cater to funding those services.

Contestability: The Uncontested Champion of High-Performance Government

Mrozek and McIver contend that municipalities provide a range of expensive services often without knowing whether they are receiving full, efficient value for the public money that is spent. They continue that, at a time when municipal governments are struggling to make ends meet and to provide an acceptable level of services, the status quo in service provision is no longer acceptable. It is necessary, they argue, for municipal governments to ascertain whether the cost of a service is justified, and if it is not, to provide the service at the most efficient price.

Fixing Winnipeg's Downtown: Big Picture Policy Changes to Revitalize the Inner City

According to Peter Holle and Dennis Owens, authors of the Frontier Centre report Fixing Winnipeg’s Downtown, Winnipeg has never lived up to its economic potential. Dismissing evolving geographical and historical forces as the reason for this fact, the authors blame provincial and municipal economic policies they say have restricted Winnipeg’s economic growth. If, Holle and Owens assert, these policies can be addressed and reformed, then the City of Winnipeg can revive its downtown, experience increased economic growth, and attract the quality human capital that is necessary in today’s knowledge economy.

From Global to Local: GATS Impact on Canadian Municipalities

Co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Michelle Swenarchuk’s article From Global to Local: GATS Impact on Canadian Municipalities explores the effect of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) on basic municipal services. According to Swenarchuk, GATS applies to municipal government services because both public and private bodies provide such services. Thus, GATS, she continues, could adversely affect Canadian municipalities by limiting their ability to supply and regulate the delivery of municipal services.

Inner-City Public Policy: Empower Local Citizens

In this Frontier Centre article Larry Gregan proposes policy reforms to empower inner-city residents. Gregan claims that the intimate involvement of the public sector in the inner-city – through law enforcement, health care, politically-active agencies, and myraid other means – may inhibit the ability of residents to lead self-directed lives.

Mission Possible: Successful Canadian Cities

In this report, Natalie Brender, Marni Cappe, and Anne Golden begin with the premise that Canada’s prosperity depends on the success of its major cities.

More Than Money: The New Deal for Cities and a Federal Urban Lens

Paul Shaker examines the “New Deal” for cities, announced by the federal Liberal government in 2004. It involves a change within the federal government when it comes to municipalities: an ‘urban lens’ is applied to how federal policies and programs are conceived and implemented.

Place Matters and Multi-level Governance: Perspectives on a New Urban Policy Paradigm

Neil Bradford's article takes stock of the recent explosion of interest in Canada�s cities, explores the factors driving the new urban agenda, and examines the strategies needed to build healthy, vibrant cities.

Reassessing Local Government Amalgamation

In this brief backgrounder, Wendell Cox examines municipal amalgamations, which involve combining local government services among two or more municipalities.

Riding Off in All Directions: An examination of Winnipeg's New Deal

Hugh Mackenzie and Todd Scarth assess Winnipeg’s New Deal package. The authors argue that the New Deal plan lacks focus. They propose an alternative approach that identifies a clear and overriding services renewal goal of at least $140 million, and sets out a package of changes to raise the revenue needed to achieve that goal.

Taking Out the Trash: How to Allocate the Costs Fairly

Marla Kelleher, Janet Robins, John Dixie discuss the implementation of user fees for waste removal services. This concept has been put into use in 200 communities in Canada and 6000 in the US. The authors argue that moving the cost of the service out of property tax bills and making costs visible will increase the consciousness of the consumers and encourage them to decrease the amount of waste they produce.

The Federal Role in Canada’ Cities: Overview of Issues and Proposed Actions

As Seidle points out, the public agenda in the early years of the 21st century has been marked by heightened interest in the economic future of Canada’s cities, and calls for the a more prominent federal government role in this regard. To support this notion, Seidle, argues there is a growing consensus that the policy objectives and actions of governments, and other actors, must address the quality of life in urban communities. Accordingly, in this report Seidle’s aim is to examine the role of the federal government in ensuring a strong social fabric in these communities.

The Social Role of Local Government

This paper discusses the challenges that municipal governments face in tackling complex social issues vis-à-vis their many roles in the community.

Toronto's Revenue Crisis: A Made at Queen's Park Problem That's Only Going to Get Worse

In Toronto's Revenue Crisis: A Made at Queen's Park Problem That's Only Going to Get Worse, Hugh Mackenzie, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, argues that Toronto’s budget problems are a direct result of actions taken by the Ontario government. According to Mackenzie, the provincial government’s municipal tax policy essentially freezes Toronto’s revenue, causing the City to lose access to 63 percent of its available tax base. The problem, as detailed by Mackenzie, is Bill 140, which defines a ‘tax ratio’ for municipal properties, in turn affecting the tax returns of municipalities. Cities such as Toronto, Mackenzie concludes, must fight the issue vociferously with the Government of Ontario in order to regain their revenue powers and avoid cutting crucial programs and services.

Tough Times in the Big Easy: Lessons From a Catastrophe

This report, written by Andrew Archibald and Trefor Munn-Venn, explores the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and proposes lessons the Canadian public and private sectors should take away from the ordeal.

Urban Education: Exploring the Relationship Between School Boards and Municipalities

In Urban Education: Exploring the Relationship Between School Boards and Municipalities, Evan Jones, of the Canada West Foundation, examines the history of cooperation between school boards and municipal governments.

Whistler and the World: The Funding of Ski Resort Municipalities

In Whistler and the World: The Funding of Ski Resort Municipalities, Casey Vander Ploeg and Roger Gibbins of the Canada West Foundation explore municipal revenues in resort municipalities by focusing on one such community: Whistler, British Columbia.

Whither the Federal Urban Agenda? A New Deal in Transition

Neil Bradford takes stock of the public policy response to what is termed, “the new localism” and the “cities agenda” in Canada.

Why Cities Matter: Policy Research Perspectives for Canada

This article by Neil Bradford attempts to clarify and outline “major issues, differing perspectives, and central debates in a rapidly evolving and complex field of policy inquiry and action”, i.e. urban issues. By doing so, Bradford aims to contextualize both historically and policy wise the choices Canadian cities face in the upcoming decades. The author underlines the fact, through statistical data, that cities are “the places where today’s major economic, social and environmental challenges most visibly intersect.” He concludes by mapping out four areas where further research and mobilization is needed. These are environmental sustainability, community economic development, social inclusion and an “economic cluster”, which encompasses issues such as urban planning and public/private cooperation.