CBRM Improves Financial Reporting to Province

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been doing a much better job of submitting audited financial statements to the province on deadline each year.

I know this because CBRM CFO Marie Walsh answered my queries — as did the spokesperson for the Nova Scotia department of municipal affairs — and because I was able to see the minutes of CBRM audit committee meetings, copies of the municipality’s audited financial statements and this 2014-2015 department of municipal affairs Accountability Report online. See what happens when you provide the public with actual information?

The CBRM is also getting better at presenting financials to council in a timely manner, a problem that has been around since amalgamation, to judge by this excerpt from a February 1999 audit committee meeting:

Legislation dictates that the Financial Statements must be submitted to the Department of Municipal Affairs by June 30th. KPMG require a minimum of four (4) weeks to complete the audit, therefore documents must be made available at least by June 1st.

The Committee expressed concerns that the CBRM Financial Statements were being presented to Council six months into the year and the following motion was put forth:

Moved by Councillor [Jim] MacEachern, seconded by Councillor [Ray] Paruch that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the CBRM Financial Statements be presented to Regional Council during the first week of July. Motion Carried.

The deadline for submitting financial statements to the department of municipal affairs is now September 30 — that is, six months after the end of the fiscal year — and, as of July 2013, the Audit Committee has been meeting twice a year, both of which may help explain why the municipality has been doing better at submitting financials to both the province and the council on time. Cue beautiful table:


Fiscal YearFinancials Approved by Audit Committee Auditors' Report SignedFinancials Submitted to Council
2014-1524 September 20156 October 20156 October 2015
2013-1416 October 201421 October 201521 October 2014
2012-201325 September 201325 September 201331 January 2014
2011-201218 December 201218 December 201214 January 2013
2010-20119 February 20129 February 20129 February 2012
2009-20102 December 20101 October 20102 December 2010
2008-200921 January 20105 January 201021 January 2010
2007-200820 July 200911 March 200920 July 2009
2006-200714 January 200928 February 200920 January 2009


Submitting financial information to the provincial government on time is important, says provincial spokesperson Sarah Gillis:

If financial information is not submitted on time, municipalities are subject to operational and capital grants being withheld. We do appreciate that sometimes municipalities experience difficulties beyond their control. For example, dependence on a report from an independent auditor.

Since 2010-11 CBRM has improved in meeting their September 30th financial reporting requirements. For the last three years CBRM financial statements were submitted within an acceptable timeframe.

In fact, there has been a marked improvement in financial reporting by Nova Scotia municipalities generally since 2010:

Financial reporting by NS municipalities 2010-2015

Source: Accountability Report 2014-2015 N.S. Department of Municipal Affairs

Before we break out the bubbly, this is probably the time to mention this 2015 report from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy which ranked the “top 100” Canadian cities in terms of the quality of their financial reporting and put us — drum roll please — very close to the bottom. In fact, of all those 100 cities we can only look down our noses at Kawatha Lakes (Ontario), Charlottetown and Niagara Falls. (Niagara Falls was dead last with a 0/33 rating because the report was based on 2013 financial statements and its weren’t available as of July 2015.)

But let’s not spoil this moment: things are looking up in terms of our financial reporting and that’s a good thing, according to Andrew Sancton. He’s a professor in the Social Sciences department at Western University who is “interested in all aspects of urban politics and local government.” I asked him why municipal financial statements matter and he said, “Financial statements in my view are very important for understanding a municipality’s financial health and not meeting the legislated deadline is a serious problem.”

So let’s take a moment to congratulate the CBRM on its progress.

And then let’s ask the Port of Sydney Development Corporation to follow suit — its board (questionable as it is) hasn’t met since February of this year. It failed to produce audited financials at its Annual General Meeting (which it held on 12 March 2016, before the end of its fiscal year) and it hasn’t produced any yet. Here’s hoping we’ll see audited financials from everyone before, say, 15 October 2016…