Global Austerity and Local Democracy: The Case of Participatory Budgeting in Guelph, ON.

Laura Grace Pin


This paper examines the role of participatory budgeting in policy-making at the municipal level, through a case study of the longest experiment with participatory budgeting in Canada, the Neighbourhood Support Coalition (NSC) in Guelph, ON. While existing scholarship tends to view participatory budgeting largely as oppositional to neoliberalism, I argue that participatory budgeting in Guelph is better understood as an adaptation of community groups to a neoliberal political context, rather than a direct challenge to neoliberal policies. When participatory budgeting began to be perceived as contravening neoliberal rationalities of autonomy, self-sufficiency, and marketization, the grassroots democratic elements of the practice were ultimately sacrificed in favour of a process that fit better with these logics. This work builds on previous research on participatory budgeting in Guelph by both bringing participatory budgeting in explicit dialogue with neoliberalism, and temporally extending the narrative of Guelph’s experience with participatory budgeting beyond 2009.

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125