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Fraser Institute/MEI Publication: Couillard government’s spending under control, but the tax burden remains excessive

Montreal, February 4, 2016 – A ranking comparing the relative fiscal and budgetary performance of the provincial premiers puts the current Quebec government in second place among its peers.

This ranking measures government spending, corporate and individual taxes, and deficits and debt. With an overall score of 78.2 out of 100, the government led by Philippe Couillard is just behind the Christy Clark government in British Columbia (78.5) and far ahead of the governments of Ontario and Alberta (61.4 and 53.8 respectively).

It is in the public spending category that the Couillard government obtains its best score, by being one of only two provinces (the other being Nova Scotia) to have increased its program spending less quickly than the economy, and less quickly than inflation and population growth combined. The relative weight of the state therefore decreased in Quebec in 2014-2015.

When it comes to income taxes, though, Quebec does not score nearly as well, ranking seventh in this category. “Even though personal income tax rates at the income levels examined in the report have not risen since the election of the Couillard government, Quebec suffers because its tax level is already extremely high,” explains Youri Chassin, Research Director at the MEI.

For example, Quebec has the highest marginal tax rate among the ten provinces at $50,000 of income, and the second highest at the $150,000 level.

The Institut de la statistique du Québec reminded us recently that the available income of Quebecers is the lowest of all the provinces, and is growing slowly. This state of affairs prevents many families from improving their lot.

Finally, the Couillard government is in an enviable position in the deficits and debt category, coming in third. Quebec and Saskatchewan were the only two provinces to reduce the size of their net debt as a percentage of GDP.

“The public finances situation in Quebec has improved when compared to that of the other provinces. The current government has gotten spending back under control and put the brakes on the province’s growing debt. But there’s still a lot of work to do before catching up with the Canadian average, and even more before reaching a point that would be more favourable to growth,” says Youri Chassin.

The Viewpoint entitled “Budgetary and Fiscal Performance: Quebec among the Most Improved Provinces” was prepared by Youri Chassin, Economist and Research Director at the MEI, with the assistance of the Fraser Institute based on data contained in “Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada’s Premiers,” which is being published simultaneously. The MEI is nevertheless solely responsible for the content of the present publication, which is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Mariam Diaby, Communications Director, Montreal Economic Institute / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2231 / Cell.: 514-668-3063 / Email: mdiaby@iedm.org

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