Canadian Manufacturing

Wynne the worst fiscal manager among sitting premiers, report says

Clark, Couillard sit atop Fraser Institute rankings, while Ontario premier edges out only ousted leaders

Part of the Canadian delegation at the COP21 conference. PHOTO: Government of Canada

Several of Canada’s Premier’s with PM Justin Trudeau. Left to right: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, PM Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. PHOTO: Government of Canada

TORONTO—As provincial governments across Canada prepare their lengthy annual budgets, the Fraser Institute is expecting a little more prudence from Victoria and Quebec City than it is from Toronto.

Taking a look at the performance of middle tier governments across the country, the think tank has released a report ranking the fiscal track records of the Canadian province’s 10 premiers.

Topping the list, which takes into account government spending, taxes, as well as deficits and debt, is B.C. Premier Christy Clark. The west coast chief was followed closely by Quebec’s Philippe Couillard; they scored 78.5 and 78.2 respectively across all three categories. Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall also placed well, recording a 77.1 rating overall, indicating the province managed spending and maintained relatively balanced books.

“As provinces prepare their annual budgets, it’s important to emphasize that sound fiscal policy is a crucial driver of economic well-being,” Charles Lammam, director of fiscal studies at the Fraser Institute and the study’s co-author, said.

“All premiers have room to improve, but those who fare well in the rankings should be commended while those lagging behind can use the performance of others as a model for reform,” he added.

When it comes to Canada’s most populous province, the Fraser was less generous. The think tank ranked Premier Kathleen Wynne sixth with a score of 61.4—last among all sitting premiers.

“Ontario’s persistent deficits and mounting government debt are key reasons for Premier Wynne’s poor performance,” Ben Eisen, associate director of Ontario prosperity studies at the Fraser Institute, said.

The Ontario premier is currently on a trade mission to India with a number of business leaders, looking to boost trade between the province and the enormous Asian country.

Despite finishing last among current leaders, Wynne did manage to defeat four recently-ousted premiers. Alberta’s Alison Redford, New Brunswick’s David Alward, P.E.I.’s Robert Ghiz, and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Tom Marshall all scored lower, with Marshall recording a dismal 37.8 rating.

With four new premiers at the helm, the Fraser hopes the leaders will look to emulate the Canadian provinces that have kept spending in check.

“Premiers looking to better manage government spending can look to provinces such as Quebec, which has started to turn its fiscal ship around,” Lammam said.

With tough economic times settling in across Canada though, only time will tell if the premiers and their finance chiefs heed the advice.

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