Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Municipal Reforms in Montreal and the Issue of Fairness

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Municipal Reforms in Montreal and the Issue of Fairness

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In the late 1990s, the Government of Quebec altered institutional structures in the Montreal metropolitan region. These changes include the creation of a regional governance body, the Montreal Metropolitan Community (MMC), in 2001, as well as the amalgamation of a number of municipalities in 2002 in central Montreal and in several major suburbs such as Longueuil, Terrebonne and Repentigny (see table 1). However, the election of a new provincial government in Quebec in 2003 initiated a de-amalgamation process, which culminated in the demerger of several municipalities in Montreal and Longueuil in 2006. As a result, agglomeration councils were created to provide services on the territory of formerly amalgamated cities, all of which were obligated to join in these structures. The main goal of the first reform was to ensure greater cohesion in the production of local public services in the metropolitan area while achieving a consolidated central city (Sancton 2003). The de-amalgamation reform resulted in an institutional structure that is almost as fragmented as it originally was. As Sancton (2005) mentions, this vacillation between opposite reforms renders Montreal's governance arrangements quite complex and unique. As such, they constitute an interesting case for further analysis.

Several studies on the economic impact of consolidation and fragmentation of local governance structures examine metropolitan areas in the United States (Hamilton, Miller & Paytas 2004; Edwards 2008; Jiminez & Hendrick 2010; Martin & Schiff 2011; Kim & Jurey 2013). Others analyse local government reforms in Northern Europe and the Middle East (Reingewertz 2012; Moisio & Uusitalo 2013). Researchers have also examined municipal consolidation in Canada (Vojnovic 2000; Sancton 2000; Reese 2004; Kushner & Siegel 2005; Schwartz 2009; Slack & Bird 2013). The case of Montreal has also been studied by Tomas (2012) and Meloche & Vaillancourt (2015). However, the economic impact of municipal reforms has not been investigated in the specific case of Montreal. Considering the atypical nature of this case as well as the variety of reforms that have been implemented in the metropolitan area, Montreal stands to provide valuable information about the impact on equity of both amalgamation and de-amalgamation. Equity is understood as a low variation in the distribution of fiscal effort conceptualized in terms of two indicators: fiscal base and tax rate. The analysis is based on the convergence of these indicators among all municipalities in the area estimated for three periods: the pre-merger (1996-2000), the merger (2001-2005) and the post-merger (2006-2011) periods. The number of municipalities from which data is available varies from 98 in the initial period, to 61 after consolidation, and 78 after de-amalgamation.

The article is organized as follows. The first section presents the conceptual framework and the main arguments in favor of amalgamation. The second section provides more details on the specific case of Montreal and introduces the data used in the experiment. The third section focuses on the analysis of equity by way of measuring fiscal effort and convergence. The findings are discussed in the conclusion.

THE RATIONALE FOR AMALGAMATION

Municipal consolidation is usually understood as the structural merging of two or more municipal governments into one (Martin & Schiff 2011). The term amalgamation is used as a perfect synonym for city-consolidation. As stated by Edwards (2008), the process may also relate to large-scale annexation when compulsory amalgamation comprise appropriation of small suburban municipalities by a dominant central city. Reformists propose city-consolidation as a solution to problems arising from the fragmentation of metropolitan areas (Stephens & Wikstrom 2000), that is the division of a metropolitan territory into a large number of local governments, which may include overlapping jurisdictions (Hamilton, Miller, & Paytas 2004; Hendrick, Jiminez, & Lal 2011). …

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