MPA Major Research Papers

Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration


Political Science


Bill Irwin

Geographical Areas

Chatham-Kent, Haldimand, Ingersoll, London, Mississauga, Temiskaming Shores, Sudbury, Timmins, Thunder Bay, Ontario


Municipal councils in Ontario are charged with the administration and control of organizations through the Municipal Act, 2001. Councils are responsible for the financial and service performance of a wide variety of activities. Should the activities and finances be poorly linked, this could lead to an accountability disconnect. This research explores how well municipalities in Ontario link strategic planning to financial planning, and how they communicate this to the public. Nine municipalities were randomly selected representing small, medium, and large municipalities in the south, central, and northern regions of the province. Municipalities primarily rely on their corporate strategic plans and asset management plans to manage their initiatives and assets; these publicly available documents were used to evaluate connections between financial planning, strategic planning, and public communication. Results indicate some level of maturation with strategic planning and financial planning, and clear public communication. Only 56% of municipalities connected their budget to a strategic plan. Loss aversion information was more frequently published (89%), explaining the individual financial impacts to stakeholders. Regarding loss aversion, municipalities rarely published individualized gains to contextualize individualized losses or costs (33%). In regards to this framing, a municipality’s ability to influence public opinion by publishing its performance is largely in its own hands. Pressure to satisfy the public may incentivize politicians to highlight ‘easy wins’ to sway overall public opinion. Effective strategic planning linked to financial planning undermines these incentives by contextualizing strategic priorities using published goals and measuring progress.