Printer-friendly version
Comparing the Family Income of Students in Alberta’s Independent and Public Schools


  • On average, families with children in independent schools earned $130,127 in after-tax income compared to $97,301, on average, for families with children in public schools, which represents a difference of 33.7 percent.
  • If the families with children attending elite independent schools are removed, the average after-tax income for the remaining families with children enrolled in independent schools falls to $95,549, which is 1.8 percent less than the average income for families with children attending public schools.
  • Families with children in elite independent schools earned an average after-tax income of $192,265, which is 97.6 percent higher than the average income for families with children in public schools.
  • Decreasing the coverage ratio to 50 percent or increasing it to 80 percent does not significantly alter the results. Families with children enrolled in non-elite independent schools have levels of average after-tax income comparable to those of families with children attending public school.
Printer-friendly version
Rising Electricity Costs and Declining Employment in Ontario’s Manufacturing Sector

Ontario used to be a jurisdiction with low electricity costs. This was a competitive advantage, helping to attract and keep business and foster economic growth. Recently, however, largely as a result of the Green Energy Act and its induced inefficiencies, Ontario electricity prices have soared, threatening in-dustrial competitiveness, in particular that of the manufacturing sector for which electricity is a major input cost.

Ontario now has the highest electricity costs across all Canadian provinces and among the highest costs in North America. In 2016, large industrial consumers in Toronto and Ottawa paid almost three times more than consumers in Montreal and Calgary and almost twice the prices paid by large consumers in Vancouver. Even some select large industrial consumers (Class A) that were granted rate reductions still paid higher rates than high-demand electricity users in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Ontario electricity costs are also among the fastest-growing. Between 2010 and 2016, electricity costs for small industrial consumers in Ottawa increased by 50% and in Toronto, 48%, while the aver-age rate of increase in the rest of Canada was only 15%. Increases for large industrial consumers of electricity in Ontario were likewise far above those in other provinces.

Ontario’s manufacturing sector accounts for almost 40% of Canada’s exports, so its decline is a matter of national concern. Between 2005 and 2015, Ontario’s manufacturing output declined by 18% and employment by 28%. Notably, the paper manufacturing and iron and steel sectors, the two most electricity-intensive sectors in Ontario prior to the big price increases, shrank the most: the manufacturing sector by 32% and the iron and steel sector by 25%. Manufacturing in all provinces fell during the 2008 recession but bounced back elsewhere in Canada. Only Ontario has failed to recover to pre-recession levels. The drop in employment from 2008 onwards in Ontario was 14%.

Compared to many American and Canadian jurisdictions, Ontario has exhibited the most substantial decline in its manufacturing sector over the past decade. Between 2005 and 2016, while many Northeast jurisdictions that are Ontario’s main competitors boosted their manufacturing sector’s share of GDP, in Ontario it declined by 5.1 percentage points. Since Ontario’s manufacturing sector is lagging behind other jurisdictions, global factors such as world demand, exchange rates, and technological change cannot explain the poor performance. What is different for Ontario is the problem of rising electricity costs, which have likely placed too large a financial burden on Ontario’s manufacturing sector and hampered its competitiveness.

Our study documents the decline of Ontario’s manufacturing sector and then seeks to evaluate the role of growing industrial electricity costs. We estimate that about 64% or two thirds of the lost manufacturing jobs from 2008 to 2015 could be attributable to rising electricity prices. Taking the provincial government’s claims for its green-energy job-creation initiative at face value at face value, we estimate that Ontario may have lost at least 1.8 permanent manufacturing jobs for every new job created under the green-energy initiative since 2008. This is likely a lower bound, since many of the green-energy jobs were only temporary.

The problem of rising electricity costs is a problem made in Ontario, directly tied to the provincial government’s policy choices, which include aggressively promoting renewable sources, structuring long-term contracts poorly, and phasing out coal. The significant employment losses in Ontario’s manufacturing sector and the overall stagnant employment and economic growth rates in this province should concern policy makers. We urge the government to consider meaningful reforms aimed at significantly lowering electricity costs in the province.

Printer-friendly version
Report Card on Alberta’s High Schools 2017

The Report Card on Alberta’s High Schools 2017 collects a variety of relevant, objective indicators of school performance into one, easily accessible public document so that anyone can analyze and compare the performance of individual schools. By doing so, the Report Card assists parents when they choose a school for their children and encourages and assists all those seeking to improve their schools.

The Report Card helps parents choose
Where parents can choose among several schools for their children, the Report Card provides a valuable tool for making a decision. Because it makes comparisons easy, the Report Card alerts parents to those nearby schools that appear to have more effective academic programs. Parents can also determine whether schools of interest are improving over time. By first studying the Report Card, parents are better prepared to ask relevant questions when they interview the principal and teachers at the schools under consideration.

Of course, the choice of a school should not be made solely on the basis of any one source of information. Families choosing a school for their students should seek more information by visiting the school and interviewing teachers and school administrators. The web sites of Alberta Education, local school districts, and individual schools can also be sources of useful information. And, a sound academic program should be complemented by effective programs in areas of school activity not measured by the Report Card. Nevertheless, the Report Card provides a detailed picture of each school that is not easily available elsewhere.

The Report Card aids school improvement
Certainly, the act of publicly rating and ranking schools attracts attention. Schools that perform well or show consistent improvement are applauded. The results of poorly performing schools and those whose performance is deteriorating generate concern. This attention, in itself, provides an incentive for all those connected with a school to redouble their efforts to improve student results. However, the Report Card offers more than just incentive: it includes a variety of indicators, each of which reports results for an aspect of school performance that might be improved. School administrators who are dedicated to improvement accept the Report Card as another source of evidence that their schools can do a better job.

Some schools do better than others
In order to improve a school, one must believe that improvement is achievable. The Report Card on Alberta’s High Schools, like all the other editions, provides evidence about what can be accomplished. It demonstrates clearly that even when we take into account factors such as the students’ family background, which some believe dictates the degree of academic success that students will have in school, some schools do better than others. This finding confirms research results from other countries. Indeed, it will come as no great surprise to experienced parents and educators that the data consistently suggest that what goes on in the schools makes a difference to student success and that some schools make more of a difference than others.

Comparisons are at the heart of the improvement process
By comparing a school’s latest results with those of earlier years, we can see if the school is improving. By comparing a school’s results with those of neighbouring schools, or of schools with similar school and student characteristics, we can identify more successful schools and learn from them. Reference to overall provincial results places an individual school’s level of achievement in a broader context.

There is great benefit in identifying schools that are particularly effective. By studying the proven techniques used in schools where students are successful, less effective schools may find ways to improve. Comparisons are at the heart of improvement and making comparisons among schools is made simpler and more meaningful by the Report Card’s indicators, ratings, and rankings.

Printer-friendly version
The Top Ten Uncertainties of Aboriginal Title after Tsilhqot’in

In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a historic decision on Aboriginal title in the Tsilhqot’in Nation case. For the first time, a Canadian court made a declaration that an Indigenous community owned specifically defined lands in Aboriginal title. Amid all the commentary about the case, there has not been enough attention to date, though, to the legal uncertainties that remain after the decision—and that have even been perpetuated and expanded by the Court’s decision.

Legal uncertainties are often most harmful to the most vulnerable and marginalized within society. The legal uncertainties after the Tsilhqot’in Nation decision include uncertainties for Indigenous communities themselves on how they are permitted to use their own land. By not reaching more certainty, the decision may well have caused harm to fledgling Indigenous economies.

Legal uncertainty is of course also highly damaging to investment that would build economic prosperity for all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous British Columbians alike. The present paper tries to assess some of the key legal uncertainties left after the Tsilhqot’in Nation decision. Using a risk analysis, it considers the degree of uncertainty left on a number of points in the law and the impact of uncertainty on that point for investment in British Columbia. The key uncertainties are these:

  • restraints imposed on Indigenous communities’ use of their own lands through cultural assumptions by the courts;
  • the potential effects of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on Canada’s approach to Aboriginal title;
  • remedies applying if a project is commenced on land later subject to Aboriginal title;
  • ownership of subsurface rights on Aboriginal title lands;
  • requirements of the Aboriginal title test;
  • land claims to land previously occupied;
  • scope of justified limits on Aboriginal title;
  • restrictions of Indigenous communities’ use of their own lands through court-imposed rules about future generations’ potential use of the land;
  • impact of Aboriginal title on fee simple (privately owned) land;
  • impact on sovereignty.

By using a risk-analysis approach to these uncertainties, the paper is able to rank them so as to highlight those that have the most significance and thus to establish a top ten list of uncertainties on Aboriginal title. Many of these uncertainties have very significant implications for British Columbia. Many have major implications for Indigenous communities themselves. Yet, the Tsilhqot’in Nation decision has left many issues unresolved. In some ways, it illustrates the limitations on any hopes of having the courts settle these matters and demonstrates once again the need for political leadership.

The concluding part of the paper highlights several options for policy steps that would be legally permissible if political leaders were ready to use them to resolve these uncertainties. There are advantages and disadvantages of simply continuing to press ahead on the treaty negotiation process, of referring some questions back to the courts, or of using an often under-discussed part of the constitutional amending formulae to legislate on some of the issues in ways that would work for governments and Indigenous communities.

There are many reasons people do not talk about these issues. Some wish to offer reassuring words to the business community. Some want to assess each step as either a progressive step forward or further colonialism. This is an area of policy beset by ideologies to a greater degree than any other. What is needed is sophisticated discussion of tough issues. This paper tries to contribute to the conversation by highlighting a number of ways in which legal uncertainties after the Tsilhqot’in Nation decision imply ongoing problems, imply ongoing threats to fledgling Indigenous economies, and imply challenges with which all British Columbians and Canadians should be concerned.

Printer-friendly version
The Funding and Regulation of Independent Schools in Canada

This study compares the regulation of independent schools across Canada, with specific attention to differences between provinces that fund independent schools and those that do not. In 2013/14, Canada had slightly fewer than 2,000 independent schools enrolling more than 360,000 students. Every province regulates its independent schools, each in its own way, and some to a greater extent than others. Five provinces offer partial funding for independent schools, although not all independent schools in those five provinces qualify for or accept the funding available, so that there are non-funded independent schools in all ten provinces.

The report gives an overview of the pertinent legislation and other regulations and lists the categories of independent schools operating in each province. While 22 categories of different independent school regulatory environments are identified and addressed, the analysis pivots on funding status.

In each scenario, funded or non-funded, analysis is structured around three aspects of independent school operation: (1) establishing an independent school, with specific attention to non-profit status and the initial permissions required to begin operation; (2) organizing and operating an independent school, with particular attention to curriculum, teachers, and student assessment; and (3) accountability for the school and its students with regard to reporting, inspection, and student records.

In addition, to provide context for the scope of funded and non-fundedindependent schooling in Canada, the final appendix offers a snapshot of the funding arrangements, the number of independent schools and the enrolments, by province and by category, of independent schools operating in each province.

Four key findings

  1. Non-funded independent schools have fewer regulations than funded independent schools. In the five provinces that offer public funding, non-funded independent schools are subject to fewer requirements than funded independent schools in that province. All funded schools in those provinces are required to follow the provincial curriculum and hire provincially certified teachers. In contrast, almost all categories of nonfunded independent schools, although free to do so, are not required to use provincial curriculum or employ provincially certified teachers. Exceptions in the non-funded independent school categories are noted in four instances: British Columbia (Group 4 schools), Quebec (private institutions not eligible for subsidies), Alberta (unfunded accredited schools) and Newfoundland & Labrador (private schools). The first two are required to use provincial curriculum and employ provincially certified teachers, while the second two are required to employ provincially certified teachers but are not required to use provincial curriculum.
  2. Lack of government funding does not necessarily imply minimal regulation. The regulatory environment for independent schools varies by province more than by funding status. Although independent schools receiving government funding must comply with more extensive and stringent provincial regulations, non-funded independent schools are not necessarily regulated at low levels. Comparisons of the least regulated categories of non-funded independent schools across provinces reveals wide variation in minimum requirements. Requirements vary from supplying an annual notice of intention to operate with minimal statistical details in Ontario, subject to verification, to provision of full and detailed education plans for non-funded schools in many provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec. Moreover, Ontario independent schools are not inspected unless they are secondary schools that request and pay for inspection in order to grant secondary school credits, whereas non-funded independent schools in Saskatchewan are inspected annually. Furthermore, in Quebec, nonfunded independent schools must use the provincial curriculum, employ provincially-certified teachers, and participate in provincial assessments. This variation in the regulation of non-funded independent schools across all ten provinces is noteworthy, especially insofar as it makes establishing, operating, and accessing an independent education more difficult in some provinces.
  3. Eligibility for funding usually means meeting two common input requirements: employing provincially approved teachers and using the provincial curriculum. Only Alberta requires meeting a detailed set of student outcome expectations, in addition to those two requirements. By forcing conformity to government school standards, the requirements that must be satisfied to qualify for funding may impede the emergence of a wider diversity of innovative approaches to education, constraining advantages to students parents and society.
  4. Funding is directed to schools not to parents. Five provinces offer partial funding to qualifying independent schools. In those provinces the funding, allocated on a per-student basis, is directed to the schools and not to the parents. In other words, the funding is not a voucher given to parents to pay for their children’s education, but a voucher given directly to the school that enrolls the students. Funding does not directly vary by household income or by student need (with the exception of a handful of designated special education independent schools).

As school choice continues to attract increasing attention in Canada and across the world, this analysis provides a valuable at-a-glance overview of the regulation and funding of independent schooling in Canada. By linking the analysis to key benchmarks in the operation, funding, and accountability of independent schools in each province, variations in the regulatory regime in each province are clearly identified.

Printer-friendly version
Economic Freedom of the World: 2017 Annual Report

The index published in Economic Freedom of the World measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom. The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to enter markets and compete, and security of the person and privately owned property. Forty-two data points are used to construct a summary index and to measure the degree of economic freedom in five broad areas.

  • Area 1: Size of Government—As spending and taxation by government, and the size of government-controlled enterprises increase, government decision-making is substituted for individual choice and economic freedom is reduced.
  • Area 2: Legal System and Property Rights—Protection of persons and their rightfully acquired property is a central element of both economic freedom and civil society. Indeed, it is the most important function of government.
  • Area 3: Sound Money—Inflation erodes the value of rightfully earned wages and savings. Sound money is thus essential to protect property rights. When inflation is not only high but also volatile, it becomes difficult for individuals to plan for the future and thus use economic freedom effectively.
  • Area 4: Freedom to Trade Internationally—Freedom to exchange—in its broadest sense, buying, selling, making contracts, and so on—is essential to economic freedom, which is reduced when freedom to exchange does not include businesses and individuals in other nations.
  • Area 5: Regulation—Governments not only use a number of tools to limit the right to exchange internationally, they may also develop onerous regulations that limit the right to exchange, gain credit, hire or work for whom you wish, or freely operate your business.

Gender Disparity Index
This year the index published in Economic Freedom of the World includes an adjustment for gender disparity to take into account the fact that in many nations women are not legally accorded the same level of economic freedom as men.

Related research
Since our first publication in 1996, numerous studies have used the data published in Economic Freedom of the World to examine the impact of economic freedom. Virtually without exception, these studies have found that countries with institutions and policies more consistent with economic freedom have higher investment rates, more rapid economic growth, higher income levels, and a more rapid reduction in poverty rates.

The EFW index now ranks 159 countries and territories. Data available for approximately 100 nations and territories back to 1980, and for many back to 1970, make it possible for scholars to analyze the impact of cross-country differences in economic freedom and changes in that freedom across three decades.

Economic freedom around the world in 2015

Top-rated countries
Hong Kong and Singapore, once again, occupy the top two positions. The other nations in the top 10 are New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, Georgia, Australia, and Estonia.

Other major countries
The rankings of some other major countries are the United States, tied with Canada at 11th, Germany (23rd), South Korea (32nd), Japan (39th), France (52nd), Italy (54th), Mexico (76th), India (95th), Russia (100th), China (112th), and Brazil (137th).

Lowest-rated countries
The 10 lowest-rated countries are: Iran, Chad, Myanmar, Syria, Libya, Argentina, Algeria, the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and, lastly, Venezuela.

Who’s up? Who’s down?
The five nations showing the biggest declines in economic freedom from 2000 to 2015 are Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Iceland, and Greece. The five nations with the largest gains in economic freedom over the period are Romania, Bulgaria, Rwanda, Albania, and Cyprus.

Nations that are economically free out-perform non-free nations in indicators of well-being

Nations in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $42,463 in 2015, compared to $6,036 for bottom quartile nations (PPP constant 2011 US$). ◼ In the top quartile, the average income of the poorest 10% was $11,998, compared to $1,124 in the bottom quartile in 2015 (PPP constant 2011 US$). Interestingly, the average income of the poorest 10% in the most economically free nations is almost twice the average per capita income in the least free nations. ◼ Life expectancy is 80.7 years in the top quartile compared to 64.4 years in the bottom quartile.

Chapter 1: Economic Freedom of the World in 2015
The authors of the report, James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, and Joshua Hall, provide an overview of the report and discuss why economic freedom is important.

Chapter 2: Country Data Tables
Detailed historical information is provided for each of the 159 countries and territories in the index.

Chapter 3: Adjusting for Gender Disparity in Economic Freedom and Why It Matters
By Rosemarie Fike
The adjustment for gender disparity applied this year to Area 2, Legal System and Property Rights, of the index published in Economic Freedom of the World takes into account the fact that in many nations women are not legally accorded the same level of economic freedom as men. The EFW index uses many objective measures that, on their own, implicitly assume that all members of society have equal access to economic institutions, but formal legal restrictions to the economic rights of women in many countries prevent a significant portion of the population from engaging in mutually beneficial exchanges. The negative adjustment factor for gender disparity is smaller in economically free nations than in non-free nations.

Chapter 4: Economic Freedom, Social Protections, and Electoral Support for Anti-Immigrant Populist Parties in 27 Industrial Democracies
By Krishna Chaitanya Vadlamannati and Indra de Soysa
Some propose that the rise of anti-immigrant, nativist populism is the result of economic insecurity arising from globalization and suggest greater social protections can diminish communal disharmony. Others suggest that anti-immigrant sentiment is driven by “welfare chauvinism”, where residents enjoying high levels of social welfare see immigrants as threatening their livelihood. The authors test these propositions and find that the positive effect of a bigger immigrant share of the population on support for nativist populism is conditional upon higher degrees of social welfare, which reduces economic freedom.

Chapter 5: Economic Freedom in South Africa and the Constraints on Economic Policy
By Richard J. Grant
The index published in the Economic Freedom of the World covers two very distinct eras in South African history: the apartheid era and that after the transition to the “new South Africa” in 1994. The author describes in detail the rise in economic freedom and the subsequent decline. He concludes: “As economic freedom has decreased, the GDP growth rate has declined, as would be expected.

Printer-friendly version
Measuring the Impact of Federal Personal Income Tax Changes on Middle Income Canadian Families

Select your family type:



  • During the 2015 federal election campaign, the Liberals pledged to cut income taxes on Canada’s middle class. Since coming into office, the government has repeatedly claimed that it has delivered on this commitment. While the federal government did reduce the second lowest federal personal income tax rate, it also simultaneously introduced several other broader changes to the federal personal income tax system.
  • For instance, it introduced a new, higher top income tax rate and eliminated several tax credits, which had the effect of increasing taxes on Canadian families who previously claimed those credits. In fact, the elimination of many tax credits may partially, or even completely, offset the tax rate reduction targeted at middle class families.
  • This paper measures the net overall effect that the federal government’s changes to the personal income tax system have had on the amount of tax that Canadian families with children pay. It finds the federal government’s income tax changes have resulted in 60 percent of the 3.88 million families with children covered in this paper (representing 13.9 million individuals), paying more in taxes. The average tax increase amounts to $1,151 each year.
  • Among middle income families—the group of families the federal government claims to want to help—81 percent are paying more in taxes as a result of the federal income tax changes. The average income tax increase for this group of middle income families is $840.
  • For the subset of middle income families consisting of couples with children, an even greater share (89 percent) pays higher income taxes ($919 on average).
Printer-friendly version
Comparing Performance of Universal Health Care Countries, 2017

Comparing the performance of different countries’ health-care systems provides an opportunity for policy makers and the general public to determine how well Canada’s health-care system is performing relative to its international peers. Overall, the data examined suggest that, although Canada’s is among the most expensive universal-access health-care systems in the OECD, its performance is modest to poor.

This study uses a “value for money approach” to compare the cost and performance of 29 universal health-care systems in high-income countries. The level of health-care expenditure is measured using two indicators, while the performance of each country’s health-care system is measured using 42 indicators, representing the four broad categories: [1] availability of resources; [2] use of resources; [3] access to resources; [4] quality and clinical performance.

Five measures of the overall health status of the population are also included. However, these indicators can be influenced to a large degree by non-medical determinants of health that lie outside the purview of a country’s health-care system and policies.

Expenditure on health care
Canada spends more on health care than the majority of high-income OECD countries with universal health-care systems. After adjustment for “age”, the percentage of the population over 65, it ranks third highest for expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP and eleventh highest for health-care expenditure per capita.

Availability of resources
The availability of medical resources is perhaps one of the most basic requirements for a properly functioning health-care system. Data suggests that Canada has substantially fewer human and capital medical resources than many peer jurisdictions that spend comparable amounts of money on health care. After adjustment for age, it has significantly fewer physicians, acute-care beds, and psychiatric beds per capita compared to the average of OECD countries included in the study (it ranks close to the average for nurses). While Canada has the most Gamma cameras (per million population), it has fewer other medical technologies than the average high-income OECD country with universal health care for which comparable inventory data is available.

Use of resources
Medical resources are of little use if their services are not being consumed by those with health-care demands. Data suggests that Canada’s performance is mixed in terms of use of resources, performing at higher rates than the average OECD country on about half the indicators examined (for example, consultations with a doctor, CT scans, and cataract surgery), and average to lower rates on the rest. Canada reports the least degree of hospital activity (as measured by discharge rates) in the group of countries studied.

Access to resources
While both the level of medical resources available and their use can provide insight into accessibility, it is also beneficial to measure accessibility more directly by examining measures of timeliness of care and cost-related barriers to access. Canada ranked worst on four of the five indicators of timeliness of care, and performed worse than the 10-country average on the indicator measuring the percentage of patients who reported that cost was a barrier to access.

Quality and clinical performance
When assessing indicators of availability of, access to, and use of resources, it is of critical importance to include as well some measure of quality and clinical performance in the areas of primary care, acute care, mental health care, cancer care, and patient safety. While Canada does well on four indicators of clinical performance and quality (such as rates of survival for breast and colorectal cancer), its performance on the seven others examined in this study are either no different from the average or in some cases—particularly obstetric traumas and diabetes-related amputations—worse.

The data examined in this report suggests that there is an imbalance between the value Canadians receive and the relatively high amount of money they spend on their health-care system. Although Canada ranks among the most expensive universal-access health-care systems in the OECD, its performance for availability and access to resources is generally below that of the average OECD country, while its performance for use of resources and quality and clinical performance is mixed.

Printer-friendly version
The Debate about Métis Aboriginal Rights—Demography, Geography, and History

In the 2015 federal election campaign, the Liberal Party promised to engage in “nation to nation” negotiations with the “Métis Nation” to establish Métis self-government and to settle unresolved land claims. Discussions are now under way with the provincial affiliates of the Métis National Council in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. Success, however, will be difficult to attain for reasons of demography, geography, and history.

According to the census, the Métis population has grown explosively, from 178,000 in 1991 to 418,000 in 2011. Most of this growth is not from natural increase but from “ethnic mobility,” that is, people adopting new labels for themselves when they answer census questions. As a result of this particular form of population growth, social and economic indicators for the self-identified Métis population are now converging with Canadian averages. At the same time, the category of non-status Indians, which overlaps with the Métis, has grown even faster, from 87,000 in 1991 to 214,000 in 2011.

The Métis National Council claims to represent the historic Métis, whose roots go back to the fur trade in Rupert’s Land and the Canadian North-West. But these people today are only a minority of those who designate themselves as Métis or non-status Indians. If the government of Canada signs an agreement conferring substantial benefits on the historic Métis, it will be hard to exclude other groups with some degree of Indigenous ancestry. This particularly true now that the Supreme Court of Canada in the Daniels decision has held that Métis are Indians under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867. To determine who will be eligible for benefits, Canada may have to set up a Métis Registry similar in principle to the Indian Registry. That would be an unfortunate further step toward officially classifying Canadians by race.

Geography also poses barriers to Métis self-government. Indigenous self-government in Canada has always had a territorial basis—Indian reserves for the First Nations and the province of Nunavut for the Inuit. But the Métis, no matter how they are defined, are not concentrated in any one city, province, or region. Theoretically, a land base could be set up on unoccupied Crown land, but Métis who have chosen to live in Winnipeg or Edmonton are unlikely to move to a remote rural location for a life of farming, trapping, and lumbering. It may be desirable for provincial or regional Métis organizations to administer some educational, housing, or welfare programs, but that is far removed from genuine self-government and certainly not a basis for “nation to nation” negotiations.

History as well presents serious problems for these negotiations. Métis organizations claim that the distribution of land and scrip in the nineteenth century did not extinguish Métis Aboriginal rights, even though the enabling legislation for these programs justified them in terms of extinguishment. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that in one case, the distribution of land and scrip in Manitoba, administration was so slow and so many mistakes were made as to violate the “Honour of the Crown.” The Court, however, did not prescribe a remedy, nor did it find that Canada had a fiduciary duty to the Métis. Most importantly, the Court has never declared a Métis Aboriginal title to land in the sense of full ownership. The most that the Court has affirmed is harvesting rights in certain situations, which might be useful for a few Métis communities but are largely irrelevant to the hundreds of thousands of Métis and non-status Indians living in the towns and cities of modern Canada.

Governments like to say they have fulfilled their campaign promises but fulfillment in this case may do more harm than good. Implementing this promise threatens to further divide Canada by race, set up new forms of administration falsely labelled as governments, and recognize land claims that go beyond any existing judicial authority.

Printer-friendly version
Canada’s Past Fiscal Leaders Are Now Fiscal Laggards: An Analysis of 2017 Provincial Budgets

Around the turn of the 21st century, Alberta and Ontario could both boast of having comparatively sound public finances relative to most other provinces. In recent years, however, serious fiscal problems have emerged in both provinces. Alberta and Ontario were once fiscal leaders in Canada, but they are now among the country’s unsuccessful fiscal managers. Meanwhile, several other provinces that at various times have been considered weak fiscal performers are currently pursuing policies that are gradually improving the condition of their public finances. Saskatchewan, Quebec, and British Columbia all currently have in place relatively prudent fiscal plans that minimize debt accumulation and strengthen provincial finances over time. Indeed, several of Canada’s historical fiscal laggards have become the country’s new leaders.

This paper analyzes the various provincial budgets tabled in 2017 and illustrates the extent to which fiscal leadership in Canada’s provinces has changed in recent years. Among other things, it finds that at the provincial level, government debt accumulation in Canada is currently being driven primarily by just two provinces—Alberta and Ontario. These two, which are home to about half of the country’s population, are responsible for approximately 74 percent of all new provincial government net debt being added in Canada this year.

Ontario now carries one of the highest per-capita debt burdens in Canada. Furthermore, Ontario continues to add significant new debt each year despite projecting a balanced operating budget this year. In fact, over the next three years, Ontario expects to add $34.1 billion in new debt—almost exactly the same amount as the $34.8 billion it added during the last three.

Serious fiscal problems have emerged in recent years in Alberta as well. A significant store of the province’s net assets has been erased over the past decade, and it has now joined the rest of the provinces as a net debtor with provincial debts exceeding financial assets. Alberta still enjoys the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the country, but the province’s long string of budget deficits has begun to significantly undermine this fiscal advantage. What’s more, the pace of debt accumulation has accelerated dramatically in recent years, as the province has begun to run some of the largest budget deficits in its history. In fact, the province expects to see its net debt climb to approximately $10,000 per person by 2019/20—up from essentially zero as recently as 2015/16.

Although Alberta’s debt burden—measured both per person and as a share of GDP—is currently the lowest in Canada, the pace of debt accumulation in Alberta is such that the gap between it and other provinces is rapidly closing and a substantial debt burden is projected to quickly emerge in the province over the next few years.

Despite these fiscal challenges, both Ontario and Alberta have significantly increased spending in their 2017 budgets, and neither has a plan to make meaningful progress slowing their pace of debt accumulation during the life of their current fiscal plans.

On the other hand, Quebec and Saskatchewan, two provinces that have at various points faced severe fiscal problems or been viewed as examples of unsuccessful fiscal management, have in their 2017 budgets taken meaningful steps to address the challenges they face.

Saskatchewan is reducing expenditures and plans to eliminate its deficit in two years (by 2019/20), while Quebec has stopped adding debt entirely and is making meaningful progress in shrinking its debt-to-GDP ratio. The contrast between these two provinces, on the one hand, and Alberta and Ontario, on the other, is clear.

British Columbia, once also a fiscal laggard in the 1990s, has taken the necessary steps that have enabled it to achieve its current status as fiscal leader. But with a change in government in July 2017, questions remain as to whether the province will continue to build on its recent fiscal policy success.

At this point, historical reputations for successful fiscal management seem to bear little relationship to current reality when it comes to keeping deficits and debt in check. On public finances in general, Canada’s provinces have been turned upside down, which has important implications for those residing in provinces that have become Canada’s new fiscal laggards—and new fiscal leaders.

Subscribe to Research Subscribe to this RSS feed