Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Showing considerable progress in recent years, Canada’s market-oriented policy regime receives high rankings in international comparison (rank 9). Its score on this measure has gained 0.2 points since 2014.

Following years of slow growth, the economy has gathered speed, in part due to increased government infrastructural spending and other stimulus measures. However, deficits have been consistently fallen below targeted amounts, and the net debt-to-GDP level is expected to remain stable at a level low by international standards.

Job creation has been strong, and unemployment has reached a post-2008 low. Employment rates remain a concern particularly among the indigenous population. Skills shortages and U.S. market access are deemed problematic, but the labor market is flexible overall

Despite income-tax progressivity, inequality has risen in recent decades. Corporate taxes have been reduced in recent years. An effort to raise taxes on high-income small businesses proved controversial, and taxes were ultimately cut.

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

Redistributive policies reduce income inequality and support inclusion, although recent immigrants and indigenous communities are somewhat marginalized. Waits for health procedures are a worsening problem. Education quality is high, with impressive equity in access. A funding program aimed at closing the educational gap between indigenous and non-indigenous communities remains delayed.

The labor-force participation rate for women with children is high. Child-benefit levels have been increased. There is no universal child care system, and the net cost of child care is very high. The pension system is relatively effective at reducing poverty among the elderly.

While crime rates are low, violence against indigenous women is a serious problem, with initial efforts to address the issue drawing criticism. The government is generous in terms of accepting refugees and asylum seekers, but struggles 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 25). Its score in this area has improved by 1.4 points relative to 2014.

The country ratified the Paris climate agreement in 2015, setting strong national emissions-reduction targets. Renewable-energy policy is largely a provincial policy area, with some making significant strides. However, climate-change adaption efforts are underdeveloped, and biodiversity in the country’s forests and waterways is on the decline.

Other environmental policies have also been strengthened, including bills to ban large oil tankers from northern British Columbia ports, and another to create a network of protected marine areas. However, the government has also approved the construction of major oil pipelines.

Internationally, the 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 12). 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, the indigenous community in particular reports persistent problems, and the gender-based pay gap is large. The government is seeking to roll back previously controversial changes that had narrowed voting rights, but has not made the issue a high priority.

Political parties receive state funding. Private-media ownership is strongly concentrated. Access to government information is regulated, but often slow and inefficient in practice. 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. Transparency concerns have been raised by top politicians’ “cash-for-access” meetings with donors. An effort to rewrite national-security laws stops short of repealing anti-terror measures that critics argue threaten civil liberties.



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. Draft bills are vetted by central policy and finance-oriented agencies with highly skilled analysts with sectoral expertise. Despite promises to strengthen evidence-based policymaking, policy evaluation is often undermined by a lack of data or budget cuts.
Consultation with external stakeholders has been significantly improved, though work with indigenous communities remains uneven. Communication policies are considerably more open than under the previous government. The government’s electoral agenda has been implemented at a rapid pace.

Publication of ministers’ official instructions has improved transparency and external monitoring capacities. While provinces have broad policy discretion, the federal government imposes funding-related standards in areas such as health care and carbon reduction. International engagement has again become a priority.

Executive Accountability

Though legislative and civil-society resources are significant, Canada falls only into the upper-middle ranks (rank 13) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Surveys show citizens’ policy knowledge to be weak in international comparison, with young people showing a particular political-literacy gap. 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. However, budgetary restrictions on the parliamentary budget analyst threaten to undermine the quality of evidence-based policymaking. 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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