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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  • Outdated practices make the budgets of too many Canadian cities impossible for non-experts to understand.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.

William B.P. Robson
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 240 monographs, articles, chapters and books on such subjects as government budgets, pensions, healthcare financing, inflation and currency issues.

Miles Wu
Miles Wu

Miles Wu is a Research Assistant at the C.D. Howe Institute. In his role, he provides 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.