The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

September 13, 2011 06:32 ET

The Fraser Institute: Quebec Premier Jean Charest Ranked Sixth Among Canadian Premiers for Managing Provincial Finances

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 13, 2011) - Quebec Premier Jean Charest ranked sixth overall in a comparison of the performance of 10 Canadian provincial premiers on key areas of fiscal policy such as government spending, taxes, and debt and deficits, according to a study released today by the Fraser Institute, Canada's leading public policy think-tank.

Charest scored 45.5 out of a possible 100, ranking him far behind top-ranked premiers. Former BC premier Gordon Campbell ranked first with a score of 83.1, followed by Danny Williams (former premier of Newfoundland) with a score of 72.9. Darrel Dexter of Nova Scotia ranked third with a score of 60.4.

Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada's Premiers, 2011 examines the relative fiscal performance of 10 Canadian premiers for the duration of their time in office up to the most recent year of available data (2010/11). Some former premiers are included in the rankings while some current premiers are excluded either because they assumed office partway through the last fiscal year or they have yet to table a provincial budget. Each premier received an overall score (out of 100) and rank (out of 10) based on their performance on three components of fiscal policy: government spending, taxes, and debt and deficits.

"The point of this comparison is to show how well premiers manage their provincial finances relative to their counterparts and to help Quebecers hold their provincial political leaders accountable," said Filip Palda, Fraser Institute senior fellow and professor at the École nationale d'administration publique.

"The recent recession highlights the importance of sound fiscal policy and, in particular, the need to control government spending and debt. In the current economic climate, the pursuit of sound fiscal policy is critical to Quebec's economic well-being."

Among the remaining premiers, Saskatchewan's Brad Wall (53.8) ranked fourth with Alberta's Ed Stelmach (52.7) ranking fifth followed by Charest (45.5) then former New Brunswick premier Shawn Graham (35.1) in seventh. Manitoba's Greg Selinger ranked eighth with a score of 34.3. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty ranked ninth with a score of just 34.0 while Robert Ghiz, premier of Prince Edward Island, was last with a score of 27.0.

Government Spending

A large body of academic research has found that excessive increases to government spending can hinder an economy's performance.

Charest ranked fourth on the government spending component with a score of 62.8, behind Dexter (94.8), Campbell (83.7) and Williams (67.4).

"Although Premier Charest showed more restraint in spending than some other premiers, he increased government spending at an unsustainable rate," Palda said.


Tax rates and the structure of the tax system have a significant impact on incentives that influence whether businesses and individuals engage in productive economic activity.

Charest performed poorly on the taxes component scoring just 29.1 and ranking eighth. BC's Campbell topped this ranking with a score of 87.0 followed by New Brunswick's Graham (81.0).

"Throughout his term, Charest failed to make Quebec's high marginal tax rates on personal income more competitive and worse, he actually increased the province's corporate income tax rate, which is a deterrent to businesses investment," Palda said.

Debt and Deficits

Debts and deficits are a critical aspect of fiscal performance because annual deficits increase the overall level of government debt, requiring more and more tax dollars to be spent on debt servicing (interest costs). This ultimately reduces the amount of money available for public services.

Charest scored 44.5 and ranked sixth on the debt and deficits component. Saskatchewan's Wall had a perfect score of 100 while Williams was second (96.1) and Campbell third (78.6).

"Unfortunately for Quebec, Premier Charest is one of six premiers who averaged a deficit over his tenure, essentially spending more money than his province was bringing in, an approach that is simply not sustainable," said Charles Lammam, Fraser Institute senior policy analyst and study co-author.

The complete study with detailed data tables is available as a free PDF at

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of 85 think tanks. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

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