Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite failures to increase productivity over time, Canada’s market-oriented policy regime receives high rankings in international comparison (rank 8). Its score on this measure has gained 0.2 points since 2014.

The new Liberal government has shifted economic priorities, increasing spending to stimulate the economy, and prioritizing a stable debt-to-GDP ratio and inclusive growth over short-term balanced budgets. The economy remains dependent on natural resources, with recent wildfires leading to a significant quarterly decline in growth.

Tax rates on high earners have been increased, but decreased for middle-income earners. 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.

Despite income-tax progressivity, inequality has risen in recent decades. Under the new spending regime, deficits are predicted for the next five years, but the debt-to-GDP ratio is not projected to rise significantly. Rising health-care costs remain a challenge to long-term fiscal sustainability.

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 7). Its score in this area has gained 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Redistributive policies reduce income equality and support inclusion, although first-generation immigrants and aboriginal communities are somewhat marginalized. Waits for health procedures have led to increasing demand for for-profit health clinics, with some people seeking treatment abroad. A new funding program aims at reducing the education gap within aboriginal communities.

The labor-force participation rate for women with children is high. A new child care benefit is more generous and better targeted than its predecessor, and is expected to reduce child poverty significantly. The new government has rolled back an increase in the age of pension eligibility, but the system is still considered fiscally sustainable.

While crime rates are low, violence against aboriginal women is a long-unaddressed issue just beginning to receive state attention. The new government has accepted more than 30,000 Syrian refugees, but is struggling to provide sufficient integration support.

Environmental Policies

Despite considerable gains relative to the previous government’s environmental-policy neglect, the country falls into the lower-middle ranks worldwide (rank 27). Its score in this area has improved by 1.3 points relative to 2014.

The new Liberal government has acted to shore up much of its predecessor’s environmental-policy weaknesses, providing funding for jobs in the clean-energy industries and introducing the first national carbon tax. However, despite the country’s accession to the Paris climate agreement, the government continues to support the construction of pipelines for Canadian crude oil, contradicting its climate-change position.

The previous government weakened environmental assessment rules and diluted habitat and species protections. Internationally, the new government is committing funds to help developing countries address climate change, and contributing to green-technology development.



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 13). Its score in this area has improved 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 has promised to repeal election-law reforms that have been criticized as reducing access for some people, and expand voting rights for expatriate Canadians.

Political parties receive state funds, but subsidies based on vote totals have been eliminated. The new government reversed public-media budget cuts that had resulted in significant layoffs. Private-media ownership is strongly concentrated. A new process for nominating Supreme Court justices increases transparency by relying on an independent, non-partisan advisory board.

While corruption is minimal by international standards, several recent high-profile cases have emerged. 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 falls into the top ranks worldwide in terms of executive capacity (rank 6). Its score in this area has improved by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Planning capacity is robust, though decentralized. The new government has pledged to return to evidence-based policymaking. It has already reinstated the country’s long-form census, and has promised to make the national statistics bureau fully independent.

The public-consultation process is being restructured, with promises to give greater voice to various groups including indigenous communities. Results thus far have been mixed. Official communication has been opened and decentralized, with ministers now responsible for their individual subject areas.

The Liberal government has already implemented many of the policies pledged in its 2015 election campaign, although it failed to meet deficit-limitation targets. It has also returned the country to active participation in international bodies such as the UN, with a particular focus on climate-change efforts.

Executive Accountability

Though legislative and civil-society resources are significant, Canada falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 15) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area is 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 generally strong. The new government has pledged to give more influence, resources and autonomy to parliamentary committees. The parliament-appointed Auditor General has considerable independence.

Political parties vary strongly with regard to internal decision-making procedures. 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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