Research Publications and Projects

One of the Centre’s principal goals is to produce research that can be used by local government professionals, non-governmental organizations, and the public. Policy Briefs and Research Reports are distributed on the university’s research repository, Scholarship@Western. Open data and data tools are made available through the Borealis research data repository (formerly ScholarsPortal Dataverse).

Research Reports

Power and Purpose: Canadian Municipal Law in Transition 

Zack Taylor and Alec Dobson

This report, which is the first such overview prepared in almost two decades, identifies similarities and variations within and among the provinces in how they articulate the provincial-municipal relationship, municipal powers and jurisdiction, the organization of municipal institutions, and financial powers. It identifies five trends:

  • Provinces increasingly recognize municipalities as accountable, democratic governments.
  • Municipal grants of authority are becoming more expansive and permissive.
  • The courts have increasingly demonstrated a generous interpretation of municipal authority.
  • Big cities operate more and more under bespoke legal arrangements, but their long-term impact remains unclear.
  • Fiscal empowerment lags legal empowerment.

The paper is the first in a series of papers being prepared for the Urban Project, an initiative led by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) that brings city leaders together with other levels of government, academia, civil society, and the private sector to identify actionable and scalable solutions to the biggest challenges facing Canada’s cities. The paper is co-published with the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governancein the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

Municipal Resource Guide to Leading Practices in Cost Savings

Martin Horak, Andrew Sancton, Rachna Goswami, and Umera Ali

Ontario municipalities of all sizes face pressure to “do more with less.” Commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs, this Resource Guide provides municipal officials with information about current leading practices in cost savings in small and mid-sized Ontario municipalities. 

In addition to 14 case studies, the Guide presents a reference compendium of 159 cost-savings recommendations from recent Municipal Service Delivery Reviews. The Guide is intended to serve as a source of ideas and inspiration for Ontario’s local officials as they seek to provide the best possible services to their residents in challenging fiscal times.

Open Data

Canadian Longitudinal Tract Database

Zack Taylor and Jeff Allen

One of the most difficult tasks for users of the Canadian census is linking data across years. The Canadian Longitudinal Tract Database enables the spatial apportionment of Canadian census tract-level data from different census years to common geographic boundaries. This dataset contains the apportionment tables and associated documentation.

Funded Projects

Local Democracy Project

The goal of the Local Democracy Project / Projet sur la démocratie locale is to comprehensively describe local election rules in ten Canadian provinces, explain how they have changed over the past decade, and determine their effects on election outcomes. We will also use anonymous surveys and interviews to learn about how candidates campaign in municipalities large and small, and gather their opinions about the rules that govern municipal elections. Funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant, the project is housed at the Centre. 


The Centre is Canada’s participant in developing a multi-national project on Local Government and the Changing Urban-Rural Interplay. Each country’s research team will study the responsibilities of different levels of government, financial arrangements, and public participation in relation to the growing gap between urban and rural settlements, and to identify innovative practices to respond to these challenges. Prof. Martin Horak is leading this project. Housed at the  Institute for Comparative Federalism at Eurac Research, Bolzano, Italy, the LoGov project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (MSCA-RISE) programme.

Local Autonomy Index 2.0

In 2021, Professors Martin Horak and Zack Taylor were invited to contribute to the Canadian dataset and profile report to an international project on measuring local autonomy funded by the European Commission. Published in April 2022, the final report by project leaders Andreas Ladner, Nicolas Keuffer, and Alexander Bastenian of the University of Lausanne, Self-rule index for local authorities in the EU, Council of Europe and OECD countries, 1990–2020, compares 57 countries over 30 years. The report finds that local autonomy measured across eleven dimensions has increased in most countries. Compared to the average, Canada scores lower on institutional depth, policy scope, effective political discretion, the conditionality of the financial transfer system, borrowing autonomy, legal protection, administrative supervision, and national access, and higher on fiscal autonomy, fiscal self-reliance, and organizational autonomy. Overall, Canada scores 45 out of 100 on the Local Autonomy Index compared to the mean score of 57. Professors Horak and Taylor are grateful for the research support of Amanda Gutzke, who collected data for the project as an Undergraduate Student Research Internship in Summer 2021.