A C– grade from a right-wing think-tank spells bad news for the MacDonald government, opposition critics say.
A new report from the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies rates the 10 provincial governments on their 2007-08 finances and gives each an overall grade, plus marks for fiscal health, fiscal accuracy and budget impact.
Ontario and oil-rich Alberta topped the group with overall marks of B+. New Brunswick, Newfoundland, British Columbia and Saskatchewan received C+ grades. Prince Edward Island and Quebec got Cs and Nova Scotia and Manitoba were at the bottom with C– marks.
Graham Steele, the NDP’s finance critic, said he doesn’t put too much stock in what AIMS says but it’s interesting that even a right-leaning group is finding fault with the MacDonald government.
“They do put their finger on a problem that Rodney MacDonald has — there’s not many people who seem to believe that he and his government are good managers of public finances,” the Halifax Fairview MLA said.
“He’s not what you would call a fiscal conservative, no matter whether you are looking at it from the AIMS perspective or any other perspective.”
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the Tory government has “lost its fiscal sanity.”
“We’re tied for last,” he said. “I for one as a Nova Scotian do not believe we should be last in anything.”
Mr. MacDonald pointed out that the report commends Nova Scotia, as well as Ontario and Saskatchewan, for “more prudent spending.”
As well, he said, bond rating agencies have given the province better grades each year. He said they recognize that the government has balanced its books for several years and is keeping the commitment to stop the debt from growing this year.
“I believe (the current rating) is an A+, which is very high,” Mr. MacDonald said. “Very clearly they believe the province is doing a tremendous job.”
Ian Munro, director of research for AIMS, said Nova Scotia has some work to do.
“It’s not an F, but it’s not a B or an A either,” he said. “You might not have your bicycle taken away but you might be getting an extra hour of homework a night. I don’t think there’s any need to say things are going to hell in a handbasket based on these marks, but it just means on some measures some provinces are doing better. So we have to ask the question why, and how can Nova Scotia pull its socks up on those measures and do even better.”
The AIMS report gives Nova Scotia a C– for both fiscal health and fiscal accuracy. The province received a better grade of C+ for budget impact.
The overall C– grade for Nova Scotia is the same as it received the year before.