Fraser Institute ranks premiers' spending habits in new study

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale



East beats West when it comes to the fiscal performance of premiers in the annual ranking of provincial leaders' spending habits compiled by the Fraser Institute and released Thursday.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale and New Brunswick's David Alward finished a close first-second in the ranking of how they've managed public finances in their respective provinces.

Dunderdale had an overall score of 71.4 out of 100, when rated in three categories -- government spending, taxes, and debt and deficits.

Alward came in at 70.4, while Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall ranked third with a 61.6 score.

BC Premier Christy Clark surrendered that province's top spot in the Fraser Institute survey -- a position it held the previous two years under premier Gordon Campbell -- and slipped into fourth place.

"BC is one of the largest provinces in Canada, so that's a noteworthy slip," report co-author Charles Lammam said, citing the province's expanding deficit over the past year as the biggest factor in the lower ranking.

"The previous premier, over his first six years, was pretty aggressive in reducing debt and that was in part driving his top performance. Now we're going in the other direction and I think that's a key reason why there's slippage."

Lammam said Campbell was also aggressive in reducing corporate and personal taxes, while Clark has already signalled her readiness to raise corporate taxes.

But Clark did score well in one area in the report, entitled "Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada's Premiers, 2012," which looks at how well the premiers manage government coffers compared to their peers.

"Premier Clark has done reasonably well on spending... It's been status quo, minimum change," Lammam said.

Clark has vowed to bring in a balanced budget next spring, even as the province's latest fiscal update projects deficit for 2012-13 growing unexpectedly by $328 million to $1.47 billion.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's inability to put the brakes on government spending places him near the bottom with a 28.9 score, the Fraser Institute reports.

Lammam said that for the third year in a row, McGuinty's fiscal record has him ranked among the worst performing premiers.

"He ranks eighth overall, which is very unfortunate given that this is the largest economy in the country," he said. "And we know from research that having sound fiscal policy is one of the key determinants of how an economy does."

Government spending under McGuinty has outpaced the growth in the economy, tax revenue, inflation and population, Lammam noted.

"It's important to have a strong Ontario ... it used to be, anyway, the economic hub of Canada," he said. "Ontario still, I think, is important for determining how Canada does as a country. So I think it's imperative to have a strong framework of fiscal policy that promotes long-term economic growth."

Despite the world's economic woes, McGuinty must still be held accountable for decisions he made which have created a poor fiscal framework in Ontario compared to other provinces, Lammam said.

"A government can influence the strength of their economy in certain ways ... Ontario's government hasn't done that," Lammam said.

Overall rankings

  1. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale (71.4 out of 100)
  2. New Brunswick Premier David Alward (70.4)
  3. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall (61.6)
  4. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark (60.8)
  5. Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach (49.1)
  6. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter (37.9)
  7. Former Quebec premier Jean Charest (35.9)
  8. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty (28.9)
  9. Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz (23.5)
  10. Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger (19.2)


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