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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  • Outdated practices make the budgets of too many Canadian cities impossible for non-experts to understand.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 a revised version of the Commentary first published in January 2021. It features revised scores for Brampton (budget date), Edmonton (budget date), Halifax (budget comparison in financial statements), Halton (reconciliation to PSAS in budget), Mississauga (grade calculation), Niagara (reconciliation to PSAS in budget), Vaughan (budget comparison in financial statements) and Winnipeg (reconciliation to PSAS in budget and budget comparison in financial statements).​

William Robson

Bill Robson took office as CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute in July 2006, after serving as the Institute’s Senior Vice President since 2003 and Director of Research from 2000 to 2003. He has written more than 270 monographs, articles, chapters and books on such subjects as government budgets, pensions, healthcare financing, inflation and currency issues.

Miles Wu

Miles Wu is a former Research Assistant at the C.D. Howe Institute. In his role, he provided research support, literature review, and analysis for various projects and presentations. Prior to the C.D. Howe Institute, Miles had worked at the Information Technology Association of Canada, Queen’s Park and Toronto City Hall in both internship and full-time positions.