Lately, it seems like Gordon Campbell is the kind of premier only economists could love. Despite an embarrassing nine per cent approval rating among British Columbians—many of whom are annoyed about having to pay the HST, not to mention their leader’s recent $240,000 TV promo funded by taxpayers—Campbell has been crowned the country’s most fiscally responsible premier by the Fraser Institute.
In a recent report, the Canadian think tank ranked 10 premiers on how they’ve handled government spending, taxes, debt and deficits since coming into power. Campbell bested the other provincial leaders with an overall score of 89.1 out of 100. Newfoundland’s Danny Williams, who finished third, is the only premier east of Manitoba to crack the top five. Meanwhile, Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty ranked last with a paltry 29.7 points out of 100.
Since taking office in 2001, Campbell has run a “tight fiscal ship,” according to the report: mostly holding the line on government spending, cutting personal and corporate income taxes, generally reducing debt, and avoiding deficits most years. But for every prudent move by Campbell, an opposite one has been made by McGuinty, says Charles Lammam, a senior policy analyst and co-author of the report. In Ontario, government spending has outpaced economic growth; personal and business income taxes have ballooned; and the provincial deficit and debt load are ever-expanding.
Of course, says Lammam, even the top premiers have room to improve. For Campbell that means cutting the provincial deficit that he has run up over the last few years, decreasing debt, and making tax rates even more competitive. “Campbell ranked first,” says Lammam, “but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect.” Just ask voters.