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Canadian cities get failing grades on financial transparency

Last Updated Nov 15, 2018 at 11:53 am PST

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Summary

Toronto, Montreal and Kitchener all received failing grades, while Calgary, Halifax and Hamilton received a D

OTTAWA — Most big cities are receiving critical reviews in a new report focused on the budgeting practices of municipalities across the country.

The C.D. Howe Institute compared the budgets and year-end financial reports of 31 of Canada’s largest municipal and regional governments, and 16 of them got grade of D or F.

Farah Omran, junior analyst with the institute, says cities used inconsistent accounting methods in their own documents, had obscure or misleading numbers, or were late in releasing figures to the public.

“[There is] inconsistent accounting comparing apples to oranges and then just the timeliness and providing information and non-reader friendly manner,” Omran says.

She adds this makes it tough to hold city councils to account for important spending items.

“Like policing, firefighting, recreation, and all these are key for a good quality of life,” she says. “Municipalities just make it very difficult for voters to understand the intentions of their government and hold them accountable.”

Toronto, Montreal and Kitchener all received failing grades, while Calgary, Halifax and Hamilton received D’s.

Surrey finished at the top with an A-plus. York, Markham, and Vancouver received A’s.

If councils don’t clean up their acts she recommends provinces set consistent standards.

Among the recommendations, the institute wants to see cities release budgets in a timely manner with key figures addressed early in the reports.