This paper is concerned with the effectiveness of Westminster parliamentary institutions in ensuring the stability of a nation's public finances. Our starting point and major hypothesis is that the governance structure embodied in Canada's parliamentary system has contributed importantly to the maintenance of fiscal stability. The fact that the Government of Canada, like the central government of many other modern democracies, has survived for over a century without default on its public debt means that in some meaningful sense, long run responsibility with respect to the nation's finances has in fact been achieved, and we show that this is in fact the case. Hence a more meaningful test of our main hypothesis requires the designation of specific sub-periods when the ideological background for political policy making changed and/or when the institutions and organizations for operationalizing policy varied in ways that either improved or discouraged responsible fiscal performance. We consider ideational and institutional factors that are predicted to either enhance or detract from accountability and fiscal stability, including central banking, the adoption of Keynesianism, inflation targeting and periods of minority government, and test for their effects on long run stability of the debt to GDP ratio using data for almost the entire history of the modern state from 1867 to 2008.

Accountability, Central banking, Cointegration, Economic history of Canada, Ideational and institutional factors, Keynesianism, Minority government, Sustainability of public debt, Westminster parliamentary government
Constitutional Political Economy
Department of Economics

Ferris, J.S, Winer, S, & Grofman, B. (Bernard). (2012). Do departures from democratic accountability compromise the stability of public finances? Keynesianism, central banking, and minority governments in the Canadian system of party government, 1867-2009. Constitutional Political Economy, 23(3), 213–243. doi:10.1007/s10602-012-9123-6