CFN – Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne ranks as one of the worst Canadian premiers at managing provincial government finances while Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall ranks as one of the best, according to a new analysis released today by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank.
Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada’s Premiers, 2015 examines the fiscal records of 10 Canadian premiers (five current and five former) relative to each other during their time in office up to the 2013/14 fiscal year. Of the current premiers included in the analysis and expected to table budgets this spring, Wall ranks first, while Wynne — the premier of Canada’s largest province — finishes last.
“With sliding energy prices and an uncertain economy, it is incumbent upon all premiers to implement sound fiscal policies in their upcoming budgets to strengthen their province’s economic foundation,” said Charles Lammam, Fraser Institute associate director of tax and fiscal policy and study co-author.
“Sound fiscal policy means prudent government spending, balanced budgets and a tax burden that isn’t so heavy it becomes a disincentive for people to work hard, save, invest and be entrepreneurial.”
The study assigns each premier an overall score (out of 100) and rank (out of 10) based on their relative performance on three core components of fiscal policy: government spending, taxes, and deficits and debt. Premiers who managed spending more prudently, balanced their books and paid down debt, and reduced or maintained key tax rates — relative to their counterparts — ranked higher.
In the analysis of all 10 premiers — including former premiers — Wynne earns an overall score of just 39.5 (out of 100) placing sixth on government spending, fifth on taxes and last on the deficits and debt component, running the largest average deficit of all the premiers at 1.5 per cent of GDP.
At the top of the rankings are Kathy Dunderdale, former Newfoundland and Labrador premier (84.6), Wall (71.5) and Christy Clark, Premier of British Columbia (64.8).
“While the top performing premiers should be commended, there is room for all to improve. In Saskatchewan, for example, annual government spending increases were largest, greatly outpacing average inflation and population growth. In B.C., the province’s tax competitiveness has taken a hit with recent tax rate hikes on both corporate and personal income,” Lammam said.
Meanwhile, several premiers who took office after 2013/14 remain burdened by the weak fiscal records of their respective predecessors. Alison Redford, former Alberta premier, ranks sixth overall with particularly poor performance on the government spending and deficits and debt components, while Pauline Marois, former premier of Quebec, ranks seventh overall.
“If Alberta’s current premier wants to put the province on a more sound fiscal and economic footing, a better job needs to be done controlling government spending and reversing the decline in the province’s net assets,” Lammam said.
“In Quebec, the legacy of high government debt and uncompetitive taxes presents a significant challenge if the new government wants to improve Quebec’s economic environment.”
1) Kathy Dunderdale,* NL (84.6)
2) Brad Wall, SK (71.5)
3) Christy Clark, BC (64.8)
4) Greg Selinger, MB (49.9)
5) David Alward,* NB (46.0)
6) Alison Redford,* AB (45.9)
7) Pauline Marois,* QC (40.8)
8) Kathleen Wynne, ON (39.5)
9) Darrell Dexter,* NS (36.9)
10) Robert Ghiz,** PE (33.2)
* indicates former premier
** Robert Ghiz has indicated that he will step down as premier pending the election of a new leader, scheduled for February 2015
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