Buying Votes on Credit

By Peter Shannon, M.A. Economics, Queen’s University

Ontario’s 2018 budget was released March 28, projecting an unanticipated deficit of $6.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The 2017 budget projected that Ontario was on track for consecutive balanced budgets and indeed, Ontario ended a 10 year string of deficits with a $642 million surplus in 2016-17. [1] Given the province’s rapid growth and low unemployment in recent years, tighter fiscal policy seemed imminent. However, pre-election promises of free childcare, expanded prescription drug coverage and increased health care spending will push Ontario back into red ink this year. [2]

The political motivations of Ontario’s 2018 budget are clear: with the June 7 election looming, Premier Wynne’s Liberals are attempting to replicate the success of their federal counterparts. Like Justin Trudeau in 2015, the Ontario Liberals are promising to run a series of deficits to expand social programs, with an emphasis on families with young children, seniors, and mental health. [2] Both governments display a shift in focus from net debt levels to debt-to-GDP ratios as a measure of sustainability.

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Indigenous Education – Transition Briefing

By Maggie JonesQueen’s University

Ontario is home to about a fifth of Canada’s Indigenous peoples aged 0-24, nearly 85% of whom live off reserve. In total, this means that Indigenous peoples make up about 3.4% of the off-reserve population aged 0-24 in Ontario. While the federal government has jurisdiction over the provision of education on reserves, it is the responsibility of the provincial governments to provide education to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples living off reserve. The incoming government should seek to implement policies that reduce the gap in schooling outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples living off reserves.

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Statistics Canada Crowdsources Cannabis Prices

By Allan W. Gregory and Eliane Hamel Barker, Queen’s University

Statistics Canada recently took up the difficult challenge of finding out what Canadians pay for their cannabis both medically (licensed and unlicensed) and recreationally. Currently only licensed use of medical cannabis (both dried and oil) is legal to purchase from licensed producers under Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). One reason governments are so interested in the street price of cannabis is the legalization of marijuana for recreational use due sometime this summer. The thinking is that legal marijuana prices must not be greater than those on the street; otherwise black markets will continue to flourish.

Statistics Canada is not new to the survey business and have in the past attempted to price cannabis and quantities smoked. However, in their most recent effort, a novel feature was using crowdsourcing on a web site survey to gather the data. Statistics Canada understood that there was a selectivity or participation problem in such a methodology but decided this was the best approach possible. We agree with this decision. Since cannabis was soon to be legalized for recreational use and no special personal identifiers were asked, the participating decision should not be associated with either positive (higher price) or negative (lower price) bias.Read More »