09 Nov, 2016

New paper provides historical municipal finance lessons for today’s Toronto

Toronto, November 10, 2016 – As Toronto City Council debates the future of the City’s long-term financial direction, a new IMFG Paper by noted Toronto historian Richard White, Financing the Golden Age: Municipal Finance in Toronto, 1950 to 1975, provides insights from the past.

The period after the Second World War has come to be known as something of a Golden Age for Toronto: between 1950 and 1975, the city prospered, grew in size and international stature, and became increasingly cosmopolitan, while also remaining safe and livable. What role did the City’s finances play in making Toronto what it was? Richard White highlights a number of lessons for today’s policymakers:

  • The widespread acceptance of public debt during this time period indicates that current public debt-related anxiety is just that – a current concern.
  • As the city grew with new services and infrastructure, property taxes rose steadily without significant public resistance, suggesting that it may be easier to raise property taxes when taxpayers can see the benefits of taxation.
  • The success of Metropolitan Toronto should remind policymakers about the benefits of regional equity.
  • A big metropolitan city like Toronto may work better when it pays for services with its own revenue rather than with funds from another level of government.

Read this paper here.

On November 23, 2016, at 4:00 p.m., Richard White will discuss his research at an IMFG seminar at the Munk School of Global Affairs. Register for this event.


Richard White is a Toronto historian, long-time lecturer in Canadian history at University of Toronto Mississauga, and former Research Director of the Neptis Foundation. He is the author of many reports and books. Most recently, he published a comprehensive history of Toronto’s post-war planning, Planning Toronto: The Planners, The Plans, Their Legacies, 1940-80 (UBC Press).

For more information, please contact:

Selena Zhang | Manager, Programs and Research
Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, University of Toronto