The idea that merging municipalities will improve local services and economic competitiveness has its roots deep in the nineteenth century. Municipalities in the US were first merged as early as 1848. However, despite being merged at the turn of the twentieth the city of New York was effectively bankrupt by 1975. In contrast metropolitan Boston - often seen as a recent success story in global competition - comprises 282 distinct municipalities.
Outside the United States, forced municipal mergers were a popular policy in many European countries and Canadian provinces during the 1960s and 1970s. The city of Laval, just north of Montreal, and the "unicity" of Winnipeg owe their origins to this period – both amalgamations failed to meet their original objectives. Despite the emergence of "public choice" theory - which justifies municipal fragmentation on market principles - some politicians and public servants in the 1990s have continued to advocate municipal amalgamations as a means of reducing public expenditure, particularly in Ontario.
In Merger Mania Andrew Sancton demonstrates that this approach has generally not saved money. He examines the history of amalgamation, as well as studying recent forced municipal mergers in Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, and Sudbury. In the concluding chapter he examines the case for municipal amalgamation on the Island of Montreal and argues that those who would abolish locally elected municipal councils are obligated to explain very carefully - especially in light of evidence to the contrary - exactly why they think such drastic measures are necessary.
A compelling examination of a timely issue, Merger Mania is a must-read for anyone interested in the politics of city governments.
Andrew Sancton is professor of political science at University of Western Ontario and the author of several books on city politics.
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Municipal Amalgamation in the Untied States 18541942
Consolidation in Philadelphia 1854
Consolidation in New York 1898
The consolidationist retreat
The Era of Big Government The 1960s and 1970s
Metropolitan Toronto and Ontarios Regional Governments
The Golden Task Force
The Harris Conservatives and Torontos Megacity
The Decline of the Consolidation Movement in the United States the Emergence of Public Choice and the New Regionalism
Municipal Consolidation in the US Since 1945
New Regionalist Approaches in the US
Amalgamations in the 1990s
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