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The American experience – Municipal mergers have proven to be ineffective

Montreal, May 18, 2001 – Before an attentive audience of more than 150, Professor Howard Husock, Director of Case Studies in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, described how municipal mergers work in opposition with the interests and expectations of citizens. Backed by 50 years of experience in the U.S., Professor Husock explained: “History has demonstrated that municipal amalgamations may satisfy the ambitions of politicians and planners everywhere, although citizens prefer small towns because in them, they really feel at home.” Clarifying the differences that exist between the municipal amalgamations in the United States and in Québec, Professor Husock explained that in both instances “it is completely erroneous to believe that a broader municipal government would mean a more efficient government.”

In a speech filled with concrete examples, Professor Husock painted a grim picture of towns that opted for mergers instead of maintaining their unique character and fiscal autonomy.

Lastly, Professor Husock offered the conclusion that municipal mergers in the United States are generally a thing of the past owing to the fact that since 1952, the number of municipalities has increased from 16,800 to 19,300, representing an increase of 2,500 municipalities.

During his introduction speech, the host of the event, Executive Director of the Montreal Economic Institute, Michel Kelly-Gagnon, underscored that “On one hand, those who are opposed to the forced merger process under way have found in Professor Husock’s speech new arguments to continue their battle. On the other hand, those who support forced mergers will draw inspiration from the American experience in order to avoid certain pitfalls and ensure the success of this ambitious reform.”

Professor Howard Husock is the Director of Case Studies in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of several works on municipal politics and has given several speeches on the topic across the United States and Canada.

The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit research and education institute. It is the result of a joint initiative of Montreal entrepreneurs, and university representatives and economists. It does not benefit from any public funding.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATIONS: Michel Kelly-Gagnon, Executive Director of the Montreal Economic Institute, at (514) 273-0969.

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