How does Calgary compare to other municipalities?
The most successful municipal governments are never satisfied with the status quo. They know the importance of progress and find ways to be more efficient and effective in managing their finances and resources (fiscal accountability) and delivering services to their communities.
In order to answer the question about how Calgary compares, The City measures its performance relative to other Canadian cities. We use the information to help identify where we are doing well and where we can improve. We also monitor how we compare against international cities based on various world ranking studies throughout the year. This knowledge strengthens The City’s accountability and enhances transparency.
Performance reports and summaries
How does Calgary compare on revenue, expenditure and managing finances?
Understanding Calgary’s revenue and expenditure patterns relative to other large Canadian cities foster an opportunity to learn from other cities and share our experiences. The goal is to identify where we are doing well and where we can improve. To get to that goal, we monitor readily available public information.
For the management of finances, we use the content of the recently released Alberta Municipal Measurement Index.
Our revenue comparison focuses on municipal property taxes. Property taxes play a vital role in municipal revenues.
We compare full-time equivalents per capita because employee costs represent a significant part of municipal operating expenses. Comparisons do not capture differences due to five considerations:
- services provided
- service levels
- service delivery models
- property assessment methodology and frequency
- consolidation within the annual financial reports
Expenditures can vary based on the mix of services provided by a city.
1Data on municipal per capita spending and staffing levels has been collected from publicly available sources including annual financial reports, municipal websites, and budget reports.
ⴲ data is for 2010 to 2019, includes Translink
Victoria data excludes Capital Regional District and Transit
Edmonton data excludes EPCOR
Although total municipal expenditure per capita has varied over time, the long-term trends are stable. Toronto has had and continues to have the highest costs (just under $5,300 in 2020) and Regina the lowest (just under $2,700 in 2020).
The additional cost of some services not incurred elsewhere (e.g. emergency services) distorts the Ontario municipalities' cost profile.
Calgary’s above-average costs reflect the strong positive relationship between city size and costs – larger cities have greater costs. Part of the relationship captures higher capital expenditures in larger cities on additional infrastructure, e.g. LRT.
Spending on employee wages, salaries and benefits is usually a substantial part of municipal operating expenditures. We considered the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) each municipality employs to serve its citizens as a potential cost driver.
The results show that employee-related costs are unlikely to play an outsized role in Calgary because Calgary has a below-average number of FTEs per ‘000 people.
A thorough understanding of the cost drivers would need to consider other goods and services in the local Calgary market that could accompany future fiscal accountability updates.
Data sources include the 2020 City of Calgary Property Tax and Utility Charges Survey.
Differences in provincial legislation and revenue mix across jurisdictions.
The Calgary municipal government receives taxpayer dollars and consistently seeks to ensure competitive taxes relative to other Canadian cities and regional neighbours.
In 2020, Calgary had below-average residential property taxes relative to a cross-section of major Canadian cities and regional neighbours for a representative two-storey house.
Calgary consistently emphasizes meeting the needs of Calgarians in a fiscally responsible way. This has translated into The City maintaining one of the lowest property taxes compared to other Canadian cities.
Detailed information on the competitiveness of Calgary’s taxation and user fees regime relative to other cities is available through the results of our annual property tax and utility charges survey. The survey shows how our property tax and utility charges measures up nationally (calgary.ca).
Although total municipal property tax revenue has varied over time, the long-term trends are stable. Edmonton has had and continues to have the highest revenue per resident (just over $2,200 in 2019) and Winnipeg the lowest (just under $800 in 2019).
The variation in revenue sources available to municipalities distorts direct comparisons. Some municipalities have unique revenue tools through the provincial legislation that lower reliance on property taxes.
Excluding the impact of the distortions, Calgary has a below-average property tax responsibility per resident relative to the peer cities
Alberta Municipal Measurement Index
The City also contributes to the Government of Alberta’s Municipal Measurement Index (MMI). The first stated goal of the index is improving local government financial reporting. The second is allowing Albertans to evaluate their local government’s performance based on key fiscal indicators.
Visit https://www.alberta.ca/municipal-measurement-index.aspx to use the MMI and see how Calgary compares.
For the Municipal Measurement Index, municipalities are comparable whenever their equalized assessments, population and geographical area are similar. The MMI database is updated on a bi-weekly basis.
Performance Measurement and Benchmarking
For performance measurement and benchmarking, we take a closer look at some of the outputs (performance accountability) and outcomes (population accountability) generated in delivering services to Calgary communities. Like fiscal accountability, the goal is to identify where we are doing well or can improve.
The sources of information for performance and population accountability reporting include:
- Service excellence at The City of Calgary (through a survey of indicators led by Municipal Benchmarking Canada)
- Livability and competitiveness in the broader Calgary community (through a compendium of World Rankings for Calgary)
- Economic performance for the broader Calgary community (through Quick Facts on the Calgary Economy compiled by The City of Calgary)
Calgary’s participation in MBNCanada and other benchmarking programs is a key component of The City’s Performance Management System.
Benchmarking is integral to The City’s business planning and budgeting and service review and improvement processes. It promotes learning and continuous improvement in service delivery.
MBNCanada is a partnership and network of 13 municipalities across Canada who collaborate to build a continuous improvement and service excellence culture.
- The results contained within the Performance Measurement Report are used to initiate dialogues about best practices and processes while enhancing transparency within municipal government.
- The network also fosters an understanding of the variations between municipalities in performance related to service levels, service efficiency, and service effectiveness due to differences in city practices and influencing factors.
Annually, Calgary shares performance measures for MBNCanada services within The City’s jurisdiction in the most recent performance report. Despite the economic downturn, The City has continued to meet its commitment to citizens and contributed to the quality of life through diverse service offerings.
Visit http://mbncanada.ca/resources/ to view or download previous MBNCanada Performance Reports.
World Rankings for Calgary
Calgary is one of the most livable and competitive cities globally, as demonstrated by various international rankings and reports. Calgary’s strong ranking on numerous measures secures it's position on the world stage.
It also confirms the ability to continually offer a high quality of life for 1.4 million residents who choose to live, work and play here.
|Calgary's Ranking||No.# of Cities||Report||Description|
|3rd||172||Calgary is ranked as the 3rd most livable city in the world.|
|4th||41||The City of Calgary has ranked 4th in North America's Open Cities Index (OCI), which measures the performance of local governments on open data programs.|
|5th||140||Calgary is ranked as the most liveable city in North America and the 5th most liveable city in the world.|
|32||231||Calgary ranks first in North America for Geospatial Maturity, critical to running efficient operations and delivering the best services to citizens.|
|1st||127||Calgary ranks first in North America for Geospacial Maturity, critical to running efficient operations and delivering the best services to citizens.|
|3rd||24||Calgary ranks 3rd overall on key measures of economic performance and liveability among 24 international cities.|
The City’s commitment to excellence has also earned many national awards and recognition. Visit Achievements & Awards to learn more.
Quick Facts on the Calgary Economy
Calgary continues to be one of the strongest economies in Canada on a variety of economic indicators. Details on Calgary’s performance with respect to housing, inflation, labour market and other economic indicators are available at Corporate Economics. The content includes a dashboard that provides an overview of Calgary’s economic performance.