Comments and Reflections on Zack Taylor's Article "If Different, Then Why?: Explaining the Divergent Political Development of Canadian and American Local Governance"
Taylor’s article  provides us with a more detailed historical analysis of how the reform movement - as described in the MAP textbook - sought to disempower local councils in favour of business interests, and compares the degrees of respective autonomy between the US and Canada. As the textbook makes clear, rapid urbanization and industrialization also saw an increase in necessary services, such as roads, garbage collection, parks and recreation, etc. Vocal business interests were becoming increasingly frustrated with the structural impediments of municipal governments, particularly with respect to councils’ representative role. In point of fact, businesses desired to depoliticize local government and narrow its role to administrative functions aided in part by specialized professionals - a view of local government that seems to be coming back into favour. Some of these reforms resulted in movements to abolish wards, the creation of a strong executive in the form of a Board of Control, the creation of a “beefed up” administrative head such as a city manager, and the establishment of various boards and commissions that would reduce the influence of councillors on key decisions with respect to service delivery needs. Such reforms would come under the auspices of lessening legislative burden by delegating authority in key areas, especially in the face of the increasing complexity of service demands arising from more urbanization.
Institutions embody certain structural assumptions in their practices of power and the distribution or delegation of authority, whereby the existing structure of federalism and provincial regulation would strongly define roles, rules, and responsibilities of municipalities, thus also presenting constraints upon - and conflict with - ideas, interests and innovation. It is the institutions that prescribe the affordances, and centralized regulatory mechanisms can stifle innovation.
One historical question of note Taylor addresses is why Canadian municipalities did not adopt the “home rule” model of governance as found south of the border. It should be noted that home rule has its merits and flaws; on one hand, there is more freedom to pursue initiatives without upper government interference, but on the other hand it has been shown to further exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities as well as unequal delivery of services.
Ultimately, Taylor’s article tells the story of the powerful reform movement and the state of autonomy (or lack thereof) played out in the early 20th century in Canada. The drive to reduce municipal councils to a simply administrative role, and the increasing expenditures to meet service demands, has returned in a new garb. What remains to be seen is if there were also be a resurgence in the demand from citizens to restore the representative aspect, as happened in the 1960s. Local government scholars have already pointed out the increase in interest for improving civic engagement and citizen participation in municipal affairs, and it is possible that increased use of social media with its built in affordances of instant communication, large social graph, and decentralized multilateral discussion format, may precipitate change in this direction. It also remains to be seen if provincial governments will repeat how they responded to the increasing service cost burden of municipalities, or if a new and more equitable deal can be brokered (such as changing the tax formula, or the distribution of unconditional grants). Such change, however, seems unlikely, and commercial interests may prevail a while longer.
Sources and notes
 Taylor, Zack. (2014). "If Different, then Why? Explaining the Divergent Political Development of Canadian and American Local Governance." International Journal Of Canadian Studies 49: 53-79.
 Taylor adopts an approach similar to that of Thorstein Veblen’s; namely, the strong role institutions play in determining culture. In Veblen’s view, institutions and their practices are the source of change or invariance in cultural and technological forms (Veblen’s use of technology is more aligned with the 19th century German term Technik, which strongly favours technology as engineering).