IMFG Paper | 2020

Theme and Variations: Metropolitan Governance in Canada

Canada’s metropolitan areas are home to more than 70 percent of the country’s population. The question of how best to govern these large urban areas has long preoccupied policymakers, particularly as metropolitan areas have become recognized as drivers of national prosperity and globalization. In a new paper for the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, Zack Taylor identifies five governance models in operation across the country:

  • the “unicity,” or single-tier municipal model;
  • the compulsory regional intergovernmental organization;
  • the voluntary intermunicipal partnership;
  • the metropolitan single-purpose body;
  • and the provincial policy overlay.

The paper concludes by identifying five themes and trends in metropolitan governance:

  • There is no single “Canadian model.”
  • Models often exist in combination.
  • Voluntary, bottom-up collaboration has limited potential to address major issues.
  • Provincial governments across Canada are increasingly supporting metropolitan governance by establishing institutional and fiscal incentives for intermunicipal collaboration.
  • External incentives can furthermore nurture intermunicipal trust.

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Perspectives on Regional Governance: Global, National, Local
This is the third paper in the IMFG series, “Perspectives on Regional Governance: Global, National, and Local.” The series examines how different jurisdictions in Canada and around the world have implemented regional governance models to help cities tackle longstanding challenges that cross municipal boundaries. It also looks at how regional governance could be implemented locally. Papers by global experts will analyze international and national case studies, and propose how city-regions such as the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area could engage in voluntary regional governance. The first paper in the series is Collaborative Regional Governance: Lessons from Greater Manchester, by Alan Harding, and the second paper is A Playbook for Voluntary Regional Governance in Greater Toronto by André Côté, Gabriel Eidelman, and Michael Fenn.

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