Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Andrew Sancton


This thesis examines the institution of city-county separation in Ontario. City-county separation was the original form of municipal organization in the province, introduced as a method of distinguishing between urban and rural areas by politically separating one from the other. Over time, this practice lost ground to institutions such as regional government, which sought to connect urban and rural areas. Despite this institutional shift, 18 cities and towns in Ontario remain separated from their counties, establishing a situation where some of the province’s most populous communities lack institutional linkages to their surrounding rural municipalities.

Exploring four different thematic areas – planning, border expansion, social service delivery and agreement formation – this thesis finds that separated cities and counties are not forming cooperative agreements at expected rates. This is largely attributed to the nature of rural and urban life: there are few common servicing demands and, as such, cooperation is not a natural phenomenon. Additionally, this thesis finds that the institution of city-county separation itself is threatened by the expansion of rural areas around separated city. In a number of cases, the development goals of both areas are clashing. To address urban growth beyond separated cities, it is found that the province has adopted a consolidationist attitude towards separated cities, allowing the continuous outward expansion of separated cities, thereby continuing the practice of city-county separation.