01 Jun, 2017

IMFG launches Data Visualization Pilot Project

Toronto June 1, 2017 – Today, the Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance launches the first of three data visualizations intended to highlight key issues in municipal finance.

The visualizations, which build upon existing and ongoing research being undertaken by IMFG, are intended to create new interest in municipal finance data, enhance its accessibility, and introduce new and creative ways to shed light on the chosen topics.

This collaborative pilot project brought together the finance expertise of IMFG and the design experience of the Institute Without Boundaries (IwB) at George Brown College.  It draws from data that Ontario municipalities report to the province through annual Financial Information Returns.

This month’s visualization focuses on residential property taxes: the bedrock of local finances.  A common perception is that property taxes are rising quickly, but the reality is quite different once inflation is taken into account.  In Ontario, property taxes were lower in 2011 than in 2000 after adjusting for population and inflation. This visualization shows how average property taxes – in actual and inflation-adjusted dollars – have been changing over time across a selection of Ontario municipalities. It complements a number of publications that the IMFG has produced investigating property taxes including, most recently, New Tax Sources for Canada’s Largest Cities: What are the Options? (IMFG Perspectives No. 15), How to Reform the Property Tax: Lessons from Around the World (IMFG Paper No. 21), and Can GTA Municipalities Raise Property Taxes? An Analysis of Tax Competition and Revenue Hills (IMFG Paper No. 20).

Over the next two months, IMFG will release visualizations that examine the state of municipal assets in Ontario, and a prototype dashboard that enables users to compare revenues, expenses, debt charges and the state of infrastructure across municipalities and over time.

“Exploring how to visualize municipal finance data furthers IMFG’s mandate to spark and inform public debate,” says IMFG Director Enid Slack.  “We are always looking for new ways to engage the academic and policy communities around important issues of municipal finance and governance.”

“Visualization of municipal data allows for citizens and municipal professionals to understand the complex forces and issues that are transforming our cities, enabling participation in a meaningful dialogue about policy and helping inform decisions,” says Luigi Ferrara, Dean, Centre for Arts, Design & Information Technology at George Brown College.

IMFG gratefully acknowledges the support of the Government of Ontario for this project.


View the project

About the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG)

The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance is a research hub and think tank that focuses on the fiscal and governance challenges facing large cities and city-regions. It is located within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.


About the Institute without Boundaries (IwB):

George Brown College’s Institute without Boundaries is a Toronto-based academic program and design studio that is rooted in collaborative design practice for a better world. IwB fosters collaboration between disciplines to create innovative local solutions to 21st century global challenges.


For more information, please contact:

Selena Zhang | Manager, Programs and Research

Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, University of Toronto

selena.zhang@utoronto.ca | 416-978-2168