03 February 2016

Fiscal Stabilization Program #nlpoli

On the one hand, it’s great to live in a country that has a program to let the federal government shunt money to provincial governments that run into financial difficulties.

On the other hand, it’s disappointing that the current provincial administration is talking up the prospect of getting more hand-outs from Ottawa rather than bringing its spending in line with its revenues.

“The Fiscal Stabilization Program, introduced in 1967, compensates provinces if their revenues fall substantially from one year to the next due to changes in economic circumstances. …  A province is eligible for stabilization payments if economic conditions cause its revenues to decline in excess of five per cent in one year. The maximum amount payable is $60 per resident.”

Unless the federal government changes the maximum payable, we are talking about a mere $31 or $32 million for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The legal authority for the Fiscal Stabilization Program is in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.  The amount of money a province can receive comes from a formula in the Act that compares one year’s provincial revenue with that of the year before. The formula distinguishes between resource revenue and non-resource revenue.

The Act sets a limit on the maximum amount available to a provincial government.  The limit is $60 per person in the province according to the most recent sentence.  If the formula gives a larger amount than the $60 per capita,  a provincial government can receive the full amount.  Anything beyond the $60 per person maximum would be considered a loan.

A Quebec government summary says that no “province received benefits under this program until 1981-1982, when British Columbia received benefits. QuĂ©bec qualified for a payment twice in the early 1990s. However, since the “minimum 5% decline” threshold was restored in 1995-1996 (after having been abandoned in 1972), no province has received compensation.”