Financing Infrastructure: Who Should Pay?

Author:Mombourquette, Garrett
Position:Book review

Bird, Richard M. and Enid Slack, editors. Financing Infrastructure: Who Should Pay? Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2017 324 pages ISBN 978-0-7735-5147-3

Canadian municipalities should charge users directly for the infrastructure from which they benefit. This is the central standpoint of Financing Infrastructure; a collection of perspectives and case studies which contends that user fees, not intergovernmental transfers or taxes, are the ideal means of financing the building and maintenance of infrastructure. In this volume, editors Bird 8c Slack endeavor to illustrate how charging user fees will result in the greatest level of transparency, accountability efficiency, and effectiveness in the municipal provision of goods and services. Although Financing Infrastructure begins with the assertion that user fees are the optimal way to finance the building and maintenance of infrastructure, it quickly retreats from this assertion in favour of a more measured position; that there will be instances in which some combination of user fees, taxes and transfers will be most appropriate, and other cases "where user fees cannot be charged," (p.24, this volume). This more measured position gives way to the production of a moderate, solution-driven introductory text.

The nine chapters of Financing Infrastructure are varied in their content and structure. While some chapters draw from international examples, emphasis is on how infrastructure ought to be financed within Canada. The first chapter, authored by editors Bird 8c Slack (chapter 1: Financing Urban Infrastructure: Should Users Pay?), positions charging user fees as a viable and attractive policy option, particularly within the current context of Canada's infrastructure deficit. This orientation is followed by several chapters that address the role of user fees as they relate to different types of infrastructure within Canada; including water infrastructure in Ontario (chapter 3: Paying for Water in Ontario's Cities: Where Have We Come From and Where Should We Go?), water and transportation in Quebec (chapter 4: Financing Urban Infrastructure: Use of Fees in the Water and Transportation Sectors), and infrastructure associated with various municipal good and services in western Canada (chapter 5: User Charges for Municipal Infrastructure in Western Canada). The following chapters move beyond the borders of Canada; exploring the role of user fees in the provision of good and services...

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