Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite failures to increase productivity over time, Canada’s market-oriented policy regime receives high rankings in international comparison (rank 10). After a slight gain last year, its score in this area has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Dependence on natural resources remains substantial, with recent price volatility weakening the economy and undermining balanced-budget commitments. Manufacturing has not recovered despite a drop in the Canadian dollar. Rising health care costs prompt future fiscal concerns.

Labor-market regulation is light. Employment rates remain a concern particularly among aboriginals. Skills shortages are deemed a problem despite a decade of job losses, but the labor market is flexible overall.

A controversial foreign-worker program has been curtailed. Despite income-tax progressivity, inequality has risen in recent decades. Corporate- and investment-tax rates have fallen.

Social Policies

Featuring high-quality education at all levels and a generally well-performing, universally available health care system, Canada’s social policies receive high rankings in international comparison (rank 11). Its score in this area is unchanged relative to 2014.

Redistributive policies reduce income equality and support inclusion, although first-generation immigrants and aboriginal communities are somewhat marginalized. Inefficiencies and waits for some health procedures have led to increasing demand for for-profit health clinics.

Although recent tax reforms favor traditional single-earner families, the labor-force participation rate for women with children is high. The newly elected government has promised to develop a strategy for universal early-childhood education and care, and expand child tax credits. The pension system is considered fiscally sustainable.

Crime rates are low, but the powers of state security agencies have been expanded. The new government has agreed to accept and integrate a large number of refugees from Syria.

Environmental Policies

Canada has backed away from key environmental commitments in recent years, leaving the country in the bottom ranks worldwide (rank 40). Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point since 2014.

Domestically, the country has weakened environmental-assessment rules and streamlined the development of energy projects. Habitat and species protections have been diluted, and the federal level lacks a carbon tax or renewable-energy strategy.

While in principle supporting international environmental-protection regimes, the country renounced its Kyoto Protocol obligations, and is unlikely to meet its subsequent Copenhagen Accord greenhouse-gas reduction targets.

The newly elected Liberal Party government indicated it would follow a considerably more proactive environmental stance.



Quality of Democracy

Canada’s democracy is robust, with a fair, open and transparent electoral process, but a few weak points leave it in the upper-middle ranks (rank 15). Its score in this area has declined by 0.1 point since 2014.

Civil rights and political liberties are well protected. While anti-discrimination laws are broad and proactive, aboriginals in particular report persistent problems, and the gender-based pay gap is large. The new government promised to repeal election-law reforms that have been criticized as reducing access for some people.

State political-party subsidies based on vote totals have been eliminated. The new government has pledged to reverse public-media budget cuts that had produced significant layoffs. Private-media ownership is strongly concentrated.

While corruption is minimal by international standards, several recent high-profile cases have emerged. The new government has pledged to increase government transparency. Controversial new antiterrorism laws have expanded state surveillance and security-agency powers, and restricted protest rights.



Executive Capacity

Canada’s highly skilled, comparatively powerful government office scores well in terms of executive capacity (rank 8). Its score in this area has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Planning capacity is robust, though decentralized. RIA application is somewhat irregular, and the previous government was accused of undermining scientific and environmental review of proposals. The new government has pledged to return to evidence-based policymaking, reinstate the census and make the national statistics bureau fully independent.

Consultation with economic and social actors is frequent, but the indigenous population complains of being ignored. Policy communication is centralized and effective despite occasional leaks.

While provinces guard their constitutional powers closely against federal encroachment, the center can insist on standards in centrally funded areas such as health care.

Executive Accountability

Though legislative and civil-society resources are significant, executive accountability is a relative weak point for Canada, leaving it in the upper-middle ranks (rank 13). After a slight gain last year, its score in this area is now unchanged relative to 2014.

Surveys show citizens’ policy knowledge to be weak in international comparison. Public broadcasters’ policy coverage is extensive, with news representing a high proportion of content, while private-sector broadcasters are more superficial.

Parliamentary oversight powers are strong, but occasionally subverted by the government. The parliament-appointed Auditor General has considerable independence.

Proposals by economic associations tend to be sophisticated, taking broad societal concerns into account. Other interest groups offer well-researched but less consistently feasible proposals.
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