Project-based vs. Program-based Federal Involvement in Urban Affairs

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Martin Horak (reference below, p. 353) notes that the federal government’s involvement in in multilevel governance initiatives takes two basic forms: project-based and program-based.

Project-based federal involvement

Horak notes (p. 353):

“Project-based intervention involved the federal government helping to develop and fund a major urban project on a one-off basis. In most cases project-based intervention usually arises when local elites in a major city team up with provincial officials or local-area federal MPs to lobby the federal government for assistance with a high-profile urban development or mega-event initiative…”

Program-based federal involvement

Horak notes (p. 354):

“Program-based federal involvement in urban affairs typically arises in policy fields that are at least partly in federal jurisdiction, but present policy problems requiring spatially differentiated responses. In these cases, the federal government develops policy parameters that embody a number of high-level goals. These are then implemented through the distribution of federal funding to decentralized agents – either to provincial governments which in turn transfer the funding to local agents on a project basis, or directly to municipalities or local societal agents whose projects meet the federal policy goals.”

Improving multilevel governance in Canadian cities

Horak concludes (p 368):

“As for the federal government, we have noted that its involvement in multilevel urban affairs is often project-based, rather than program-based. This in turn heightens the prospects that short-term political or electoral goals will drive federal urban initiatives, lowers the prospects for sustained collaboration across levels of government, and – as many municipal officials in our case cities complained – produces an unstable multilevel policy environment. Thus, the federal government could contribute significantly to improving the quality of multilevel governance if it further developed its program-based involvement in urban affairs.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Municipal Governance (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Martin Horak (2012), Conclusion: Understanding Multilevel Governance in Canada’s Cities, in Sites of Governance: Multilevel Governance and Policy Making in Canada’s Big Cities, eds. Martin Horak and Robert Young, pp. 339-370. Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 29 September 2016.