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January 21, 2021
  • Outdated practices make the budgets of too many Canadian cities impossible for non-experts to understand.
  • In this report, authors William B.P. Robson and Miles Wu grade the clarity, comprehensiveness, and timeliness of the financial presentations of 31 major Canadian municipalities, based on their most recent budgets and financial statements, and prescribe some simple fixes to help the poor performers.
  • The report urges municipal governments to present budgets using the same public sector accounting standards (PSAS) and format they use in their year-end financial statements. One key consequence of this change would be that municipal budgets would use accrual accounting with respect to capital, recording revenues and expenses as assets deliver their services, rather than focusing on upfront outlays of cash, which the authors argue would help cities plan and pay for infrastructure.

Note to Readers: This is an updated version of the Commentary with a revised budget date for the City of Edmonton.