Are taxpayers getting a good return on the money they pay to their municipal governments? Are municipalities putting tax dollars toward infrastructure and services, or frittering it away on non-necessities while roads fall apart? Should we be demanding more from our local government?

On 28 November 2007, public policy and finance expert Larry Mitchell was in Halifax to present his paper on Local Government Performance Index published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. It reviews Canada’s 30 most populous municipalities and measures performance according to a variety of financial indicators. The index used only publicly available information. 

The only city reviewed in Atlantic Canada was Halifax, which Mitchell says is ranked  in the middle of the pack when evaluated on the information that was available for study. However, he was quick to point out that Halifax needs to be far more transparent and disclose more of its finances to the public. 

Mitchell also offered advice on how Canadian cities can improve their performance. Foremost among his prescriptions is changing from a cash-based accounting system to an accrual based system. He noted that more progressive local governments, such as those in New Zealand, have been using the accrual system for more than 20 years.

To view a slide show of Larry Mitchell’s presentation in Halifax, click here.

To listen to an audio recording of Mitchell’s presentation, click here.

To read The 2007 Local Government Performance Index: A Financial Analysis of 30 Canadian Cities, published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, click here.

Larry Mitchell has more than 30 years of finance and chartered accounting experience. He has worked extensively with local government in New Zealand on issues of finance and public policy.