More Affordable Infrastructure: Tax-Free Municipal Bonds
A new paper penned by Senior Advisor Michael Fenn explores a measure that could potentially help Canadian municipalities fund critical infrastructure projects amid rising interest rates.
The impact of rising interest rates, and in turn higher borrowing costs, on municipal debentures could lead to fewer infrastructure projects, less state-of-good-repair investment, and a bigger slice of property tax dollars going to debt-service costs.
This paper explores the way that a financing mechanism in widespread use across the United States could be employed to bring down the borrowing and refinancing costs facing Canadian municipalities. Tax-exempt municipal bonds – what the bond market calls ‘munis’ – allow American cities and their agencies to reduce their cost-of-capital, while encouraging investment in local and regional infrastructure projects.
As inflation and supply-chain issues drive up the cost of construction projects, is it time for Canada to re-examine tax-free municipal bonds?
CAO Survey 2022
Since 2016, StrategyCorp has conducted an annual survey of municipal Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) and City Managers from across Ontario, seeking their opinions on the most pressing issues in the municipal sector. Here are our findings from 2022.
We interviewed CAOs from municipalities of all sizes across Ontario, from upper-tier, lower-tier and single-tier municipalities. We conducted the interviews for this survey in late 2021 and early 2022. It was a time when summer’s public optimism that the pandemic might have run its course collided with the renewal of lockdowns and the Omicron variant.
This report is a snapshot of what the leaders of Ontario’s municipal sector are thinking at a critical time in Ontario’s history.
Download the full 2022 report.
Another victim of COVID-19: The municipal status quo?
COVID-19 has accelerated the impact of disruptive technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) on almost all sectors of society, including municipalities. What does this mean for the future of our communities? What should municipal leaders be doing to leverage this change as we recover from the pandemic? What questions remain unanswered?
Former Ontario Deputy Minister and municipal CAO, StrategyCorp Senior Advisor Michael Fenn tackles these questions in our latest White Paper, “Another victim of COVID-19: The municipal status quo?“.
Since AI, disruptive technologies and automation will both help and harm municipalities in the foreseeable future, Fenn proposes a series of key questions that municipal leaders should consider.
Download here: Another victim of COVID-19: The municipal status quo?
A Critical Perspective on the Canadian Education Gap: Assessing First Nation Student Education Outcomes in Canada
Understanding the impacts of education institutions on First Nation communities requires consideration of both the history of education and its role in the erasure of socio-cultural and spiritual practices. Also important is recognizing the shortcomings of Canadian education institutions to meet reconciliation goals and address the gaps in educational achievement.
StrategyCorp Senior Advisor Gabriel Sekaly and Consultant Reema Bazzi unpack the history of First Nations education in Canada and initiate a critical path forward through three key recommendations in this white paper: “A Critical Perspective on the Canadian Education Gap: Assessing First Nation Student Education Outcomes in Canada.”
Small Towns, Big Opportunities
Our latest white paper, published in partnership with the Ontario Real Estate Association, focuses on how the Province can unlock growth in rural and northern communities. We dissect the economic trends occurring in rural and Northern Ontario before the pandemic and analyze how the pandemic appears to be changing these dynamics throughout various types of communities.
The paper includes 15 recommendations that aim to create and attract jobs, reverse the out-migration of young talent, close the infrastructure gap, and foster more housing starts.
The Future of Energy Contracts in Ontario
To ensure long-term contracts and their benefits for all parties involved are utilized moving forward, The Future of Energy Contracts in Ontario provides six recommendations aimed at creating a competitive procurement process that works for all parties and addresses concerns about future affordability and reliability. This paper focuses on the impact of moving to a policy of procuring electricity supply through the utilization of long-term contracts. We evaluate the impact of long-term contracting on price outcomes to ultimately determine that these long-term contracts should be utilized moving forwards.
Public Health in the Public Eye: Motivating Sustained Investment
In the StrategyCorp Institute of Public Policy and Economy’s white paper, Public Health in the Public Eye: Motivating Sustained Investment, StrategyCorp Senior Advisor and population health knowledge translation expert Michelle Gagnon examines public health in Canada amidst COVID-19. Her observations lead to important learnings for public health and three recommendations are offered to improve public health for its many and varied stakeholders, most importantly the public.
The Future of Ontario’s Workers
The StrategyCorp Institute of Public Policy and Economy’s white paper, The Future of Ontario’s Workers, examines the impact of the future of work and COVID-19 on Ontario’s labour force and how Ontario’s 24 public colleges can be empowered to tackle those challenges.
StrategyCorp 2019 Ontario Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Survey
The StrategyCorp 2019 CAO Report is an in-depth look at comments from municipal leaders from across Ontario as compiled by StrategyCorp’s Municipal Practice Group.
StrategyCorp 2018 Canadian Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Survey
The StrategyCorp 2018 CAO Report is a snapshot of opinions from municipal leaders from across Canada as compiled by StrategyCorp’s Municipal Practice Group.
StrategyCorp 2017 Ontario Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Survey
The StrategyCorp 2017 CAO Report is a snapshot of opinions from municipal leaders from across Ontario as compiled by StrategyCorp’s Municipal Practice Group.
StrategyCorp 2016 Ontario Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Survey
StrategyCorp interviewed the Chief Administrative Officers of 25 upper and lower tier municipal governments in Ontario. The following report is a snapshot of their opinions, combined with commentary compiled by members of our Municipal Practice Group.
Interviewees were taken through the questions set out in page 6, but free to share what was on their mind in a frank, open-ended interview format. We promised to respect their individual confidentiality, and to faithfully record their thoughts.
We were not disappointed.
The interviews confirmed eloquently one thing that we already knew: that the CAO is the essential lynchpin between the elected council and the professional public service. Given the challenges that they recount, we believe it is time to again reflect on the adequacy of the definition of this very important role in Ontario’s Municipal Act. CAOs should not abandon the goal of a more adequate statutory mandate for the position of CAO.
The interviewees shared very frank concerns about the financial sustainability of Ontario municipalities, both as it relates to operating costs and to capital needs. This was not political posturing. It was the direct advice of people who “make it work” every day and who must plan for a future that extends decades.
Participants are also concerned about the ability of the municipal council model to provide solid decision-making in a political environment revolutionized by social media and heightened public expectations.
It is clear that municipal political culture that is adapting in real time – and without an organizational GPS – to extraordinary pressures.
Overall, the interviews revealed a strong cadre of public sector executives, engaged in a daily struggle to lead and manage some serious challenges.
Their struggle is an important one, and on their success rests the success of our communities. Perhaps just as important, in a world where cities and urban regions are the building blocks of economic activity, their success is a foundation of our economic prosperity.
Unlocking Economic Opportunity
A major developer retained StrategyCorp to review the Land Use Planning framework in Ontario in anticipation of the government’s review of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan, Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment Acts.
Strengthening Ontario’s Competitiveness
A major developer retained StrategyCorp to review the Land Use Planning framework in Ontario and to examine ways in which the framework could be used to help incent economic growth across Ontario.
Ontario’s Economic Renaissance
StrategyCorp was retained by Union Gas Ltd to assist in preparing a white paper which examined the role that Natural Gas could play as a catalyst for economic development and job creation in Ontario.
Recycling Ontario’s Assets
StrategyCorp and The Mowat Centre have collaborated to publish a framework for public asset management and reinvestment, answering the question: “In the face of growing public debt, fiscal constraints and a growing need to invest in public infrastructure, how can Canadian governments attract local and global pools of capital for investments into public assets, while preserving public value and interests?”
Reputation study reveals when things go wrong for business or government, Canadians form opinions quickly and hold them firmly
May 27, 2014 – Toronto: The StrategyCorp Reputation Report, a new annual national survey of how reputations are impacted by crises, reveals that when a major issue hits an organization, the majority of Canadians form opinions very quickly – 61 per cent within one day and 92 per cent within one week. It also finds that once that opinion is formed, 62 per cent said their opinion stays the same or doesn’t change at all – even after hearing the organization respond to the crisis. Fewer than four in ten respondents said that their opinion would probably change as time goes on.
The report, prepared by StrategyCorp Inc. and conducted by Innovative Research Group, looks at specific public relations issues from 2013 involving the City of Toronto, the Ontario Government, the Canadian Senate, BlackBerry, Lululemon, and others. The report reveals that among the crisis and issues tested, the above-named organizations suffered the greatest damage to their reputations.
“What stood out clearly in this report was that each of these controversies had a definite and measurable negative impact on the reputation of each organization.Even more interesting was the finding that when negative news emerges about an organization, most Canadians form their opinion very quickly – within a few hours or in the first day – and that their opinion most often doesn’t change,” said John Perenack of StrategyCorp. “When organizations react to negative news, they only have one opportunity to get the response right, and have an extremely short time frame in which to respond.”
The survey asked respondents their opinions on the individuals and organizations that experienced public relations crises in 2013, and assessed how the responses by made by each organization or individual influenced respondents’ opinions of the organization as a whole. The episodes that were tested are now notorious reputational issues for the organizations and individuals involved, and include:
- The Ontario government’s decision to cancel two natural gas power plants at a cost of $1 billion
- City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s admission to smoking crack cocaine
- The Canadian Senate’s expenses controversy
- The Quebec government’s proposed ‘Charter of Values’
- BlackBerry’s financial losses, employee layoffs and CEO resignation
- Lululemon Athletica’s yoga pants recall and subsequent comments by the CEO about the company’s clothes not being appropriate for some women
The study found that the organizations that suffered the biggest negative impact on their reputations were the Canadian Senate (69 per cent negative opinion), the Ontario Government (68 per cent negative opinion), City of Toronto (67 per cent negative opinion), Quebec Government (64 per cent negative opinion), BlackBerry (58 per cent negative opinion), and Lululemon (51 per cent negative opinion). When organizations did respond to a crisis, the survey found that Canadians gave them low marks for their response:
|Organization||Good Job Responding||Poor Job Responding|
|Government of Quebec||26%||61%|
|Senate of Canada||31%||61%|
|City of Toronto||30%||59%|
“In every case, the findings show that many more people thought the organizations did a poor job of responding to the issue, compared to those who say the issue was handled well,” added Perenack. “These were complex situations, some completely unforeseen, and would have been undoubtedly difficult to manage under the best of circumstances. The importance of preparation is crucial to avoiding being caught by surprise on the day an issue hits, and to gaining control before it spirals into crisis.”
Additional Key Findings
- Canadians form an opinion of the organization at the centre of a controversy almost immediately: 40 per cent within a few hours and 61 per cent within the first day.
- Once Canadians form an opinion about an organization, it doesn’t tend to change. 62 per cent said that even after hearing the organization respond; their opinion stays about the same or doesn’t change at all. Less than four in ten said that their opinion will probably change as time goes on.
- Initial responses to political controversies were much more negative than to business controversies.
- Canadians had the strongest negative reaction to the Rob Ford revelations (7.5/10), followed by the Ontario gas plant cancellation (7.1/10) and Senate expense scandal (7.0/10) (Scale: 0-Extremely Positive / 10-Extremely Negative)
- Canadians tend to follow controversies mostly on television (44 per cent), followed by web sites (19 per cent), newspapers (18 per cent), radio (12 per cent), and social media (7 per cent)
Please Note: An earlier version of the report contained polling regarding a situation in New Brunswick that erroneously included the TransCanada Corporation. TransCanada was not involved in the situation tested and should not have been included in this study. We deeply regret the error.That information was incorrect and has been removed.
About the Survey The survey of 2,604 Canadians was conducted by Innovative Research Group on behalf of StrategyCorp Inc. and included respondents from every region in Canada. The poll has an estimated margin of error of ± 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
About StrategyCorp Inc. StrategyCorp is one of Canada’s leading communications firms and is led by a skilled team of communications, political and business strategists. We bring together unique experience in strategic and corporate communications, reputation management and public affairs. StrategyCorp was founded in 1995 and has offices in Toronto and Ottawa. Visit us at www.strategycorp.com.
About Innovative Research Group Innovative Research Group (INNOVATIVE) is a strategy firm that offers significant research capabilities. In today’s world, perception is reality. It has become critical to stay on top of current trends and ensure that you are being perceived in the way you wish. We provide companies, governments and non-governmental organizations with high-level strategic counsel and communications advice, reputation management, issue and crisis management, performance assessment and public affairs counsel. More information can be found at www.innovativeresearch.ca.