Decentralized spending and service quality at the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal Levels

3 minute read

By Samuel Wells and Sofia Chaudhry, IOG Research Interns

The IOG has undertaken two public sector research projects, both of which are nearing completion. These projects are intended to shed light on the functions of Canadian government at all levels, including how it is structured, where its funding is allocated, and how it conducts its business, which includes policy and service delivery. The IOG is excited to share its work in the coming weeks.

One of the research projects is a quantitative review of arm’s-length agencies in Canada or, as the IOG refers to them, “Distributed Governance Organizations” (DGOs). These organizations are characterized by operational and/or budgetary autonomy from an elected executive (i.e. minister), and the devolution of this authority to an appointed official or body. The term “DGO” encapsulates dozens of different types of organizations, ranging from national security agencies to hospitals and school boards. Using organizational expenditures as a proxy, the IOG has quantified the extent to which public governance in Canada is conducted through these DGOs, and compared the results to a previous internal study on data from the 2009-10 fiscal year. Below is a sample graph from the study:

Decentralized Spending And Service Quality1

The other research project that the IOG has undertaken is an analysis of the financial operations of each level of government in Canada, organized by the portfolios of responsibility that these levels have. Specifically, this report focuses on the relationship between the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Toronto, identifying shortcomings within this structure that inhibit Toronto’s capacity to meet the needs of its residents. Municipal governments in Canada are by far the largest provider of public services, and their responsibilities are vast, diverse, and often a vital component to a well-functioning economy. An outline of all the services and policy functions that the City of Toronto is responsible for is demonstrated below:

Decentralized Spending And Service Quality2

Both of these research projects offer unique perspectives on public governance in Canada and can serve as a useful point of reference for government executives.

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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