Skip to main content

A caution sign adorns a construction site in Surrey, B.C. in June 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Surrey, Markham and London come out on top as the Canadian cities with the clearest and most transparent budgets – the only three to earn an "A" – according to a new report that concludes municipalities lag far behind federal and provincial governments when it comes to explaining how they spend taxpayer dollars.

The C.D. Howe Institute report examined 10 years of budgets for all Canadian municipalities with a population of more than 250,000 or a budget of at least $500-million. The report ranks cities on two main criteria: transparency and accuracy.

For the accuracy ranking, Durham, Waterloo and Niagara regions, as well as the cities of Halifax and Toronto made the top five in terms of providing budget forecasts that were closest to actual year-end spending.

Story continues below advertisement

The report, released Wednesday, focused on municipal budgets from 2001 to 2010.

The worst offenders when it came to missing planned budget targets were Brampton, Vaughan, Peel Region, Halton Region and Markham.

The C.D. Howe Institute says there are several reasons why citizens will have a harder time understanding municipal budgets than provincial or federal government budgets. The main reason is that most cities use two completely different accounting methods for their start-of-the-year budgets and year-end final accounting.

The report's authors say municipalities should follow other governments by using accrual accounting in both cases. Accrual accounting allows governments to budget large purchases over several years, rather than booking a big expense in a single year.

"This is not a sensible basis for budgeting," the report states in describing the mixed system used by cities. "Senor governments long moved away from it; businesses do not do it; and even households, which are often more cash-flow-constrained than governments and businesses, typically do not count the full cost of a buying a car or a house in the same budget as the grocery money."

Berry Vrbanovic, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, says the C.D. Howe report "misses" the fact municipalities are closer to the people they serve than any other level of government. In an email statement, Mr. Vrbanovic said long-term funding from provincial and federal governments would make municipal budgeting easier and the FCM is working on that with Ottawa.



---

Story continues below advertisement

Rankings: For providing clear and transparent budget documents

London A

Markham A

Surrey A

Calgary B

Durham Region B

Story continues below advertisement

Mississauga B

Montreal B

Vaughan B

Winnipeg B

York Region B

Halton Region C

Story continues below advertisement

Niagara Region C

Ottawa C

Peel Region C

Toronto C

Vancouver C

Waterloo Region C

Story continues below advertisement

Brampton D

Edmonton D

Halifax D

Sudbury D

Windsor D

Hamilton F

Story continues below advertisement

Rankings: For providing budgets that prove to be accurate when compared with year-end spending (2001-2010)

1. Durham Region

2. Waterloo Region

3. Niagara Region

4. Halifax

5. Toronto

6. Montreal

7. Calgary

8. Sudbury

9. Winnipeg

10. London

11. Surrey

12. Vancouver

13. Edmonton

14. Hamilton

15. York Region

16. Mississauga

17. Windsor

18. Ottawa

19. Markham

20. Halton Region

21. Peel Region

22. Vaughan

23. Brampton

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies