Windsor is among the worst-run cities in the country, according to a new survey by Maclean’s magazine.

Published online Thursday and on newsstands now, the report examines and ranks 31 Canadian cities in terms of municipal cost-efficiency and effectiveness.

Windsor placed 23rd in efficiency and 28th in effectiveness, that gave us an overall ranking of 26th.

Although there are cities that performed worse in either category, Windsor’s relatively low placement in both measures made it one of the poorest-rated cities in the study.

“Windsor was in that quadrant of cities that didn’t do a great job of saving money, and didn’t do a great job of providing effective service. Which is not where you want your city to be,” said Sarmishta Subramanian, a senior editor at Maclean’s.

Maclean’s commissioned the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies to compile the survey. According to the report’s appendix, the findings are based on 2005-07 data drawn from city financial statements and provincial governments. The 2006 Census was relied upon for demographic and socio-economic information.

“This (report) does not try to measure quality of life, or which city is the ‘best place to live,'” declared the magazine. “Rather, it focuses on the contribution of local governments to this end.”

Burnaby, B.C., emerged the best-run city in the nation, followed by Saskatoon, Sask., and Surrey, B.C. Vancouver was fourth. The cities that rank even worse than Windsor are Fredericton, N.B.; Kingston, Ont.; and Charlottetown, P.E.I. Laval, Que., and Victoria, B.C., were not ranked due to incomplete data.

The ranking process included seven broad categories: governance and finance; taxation; safety and protection; transportation; environmental health; economic development; and recreation and culture.

Cities received letter grades for specific criteria within those categories. Most of Windsor’s grades were middling to good — but there were some failing marks.

In terms of governance and finance, Windsor received Fs for its total revenues per capita and general government costs per capita.

“If I’m not mistaken, Windsor had one of the highest government costs per capita of any of the cities that we looked at,” Subramanian said.

Windsor also received Fs in such areas as property tax changes, fire service costs, public transit ridership, water main breaks and recreation costs per capita.

Ironically, Windsor received an A+ for the low number of complaints per household regarding garbage collection. “(Windsor’s garbage pickup) actually costs less per capita than Toronto’s pickup,” Subramanian said.

The grade doesn’t take into account the city worker strike that has paralyzed garbage collection since April 15.

Bill Marra, Windsor’s Ward 4 councillor, sees the survey as an opportunity to improve.

“Will this make things worse for us? I don’t think it (will). It gives us something to study, understand, to strive for improvement,” he said.

Marra said the city has been affected by its poor economy.

“Right now, we’re struggling as it is. The No. 1 priority in any municipality is the economy … We’re going through a difficult time,” he said. “Our image is not overly positive because of the economy, the economy seems to be the one that really triggers it all.”

Ward 5 Coun. Percy Hatfield doesn’t agree with the survey.

“I think Windsor should rank higher than that for the services that are offered,” he said.

Hatfield attributes the city’s high government cost per capita score to the economy.

“When you have the highest unemployment rate in the country, (there’s the) extra cost of social services…. There hasn’t been as much tax revenue coming in,” he said.

Despite the negative judgment on Windsor, Subramanian said the goal of the report isn’t to wag fingers or criticize.

“The biggest aim of the study is just to promote accountability.”

© The Windsor Star 2009