August 8, 2011 / 10:29 PM / 6 years ago

Factbox: What they said on Canada's deficit slaying efforts

(Reuters) - Canada took a decade to win back its prized AAA rating after debt downgrades in the early 1990s.

Here are some quotes from Moody‘s, from Canadian economists and from politicians at the time on how Canada’s experience in the ‘90s relates to the current U.S. situation.

PAUL MARTIN, FINANCE MINISTER IN THE 1990S

“Limiting the growth (in spending) is not cuts at all, whereas making cuts, you’re basically cutting down into the bone, and people are going to feel it.”

“I think the way in which the United States has tried to stimulate the economy was sound, but you have to couple that with a medium-term deficit reduction program.”

“The United States has got enormous tax room compared to almost every other country in the world.”

“I believe the European problem is a much bigger problem than the American problem... The American problem is solvable. I don’t think the European problem is solvable without Europeans going to much more integration than they have now.”

STEVEN HESS, LEAD ANALYST FOR THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA

AT MOODY‘S INVESTORS SERVICE:

“The first lesson is that it takes some time once you lose a triple-A to return to that level. Canada took what, roughly eight years.”

“Even though at the time that we finally upgraded Canada again debt levels for the Canadian government were somewhat higher than say for other triple-A rated countries at that point in 2002, we were convinced that the debt reduction program was going to continue over the medium-term because there was a political consensus.”

“We’re not looking at one particular event to drive the ratings, we’re looking at long-term trends and some underlying fundamentals that change only very slowly.”

MONTE SOLBERG, REFORM PARTY MP IN 1990S

On cuts to Canadian health care: “I do think it was worth the pain ... There is no question you couldn’t have escaped some cuts to (health) transfers, I think that’s true, and so yes, that was painful, but in the end you can’t allow the biggest programs to go untouched or else you’ll never reach your goals.”

“We actually went to the Liberals with the list of C$10 billion cuts that we would make ... Initially they were rejected out of hand but by 1995, when they brought in their big budget, they implemented almost all of them.”

SHERRY COOPER, CHIEF ECONOMIST AT BMO CAPITAL MARKETS:

“It’s worth it to do the tough stuff, but it takes political will and it takes a government that’s willing to force it.”

“There is no way the U.S. can deal with the current debt situation without tax increases unless they are willing to substantially reduce entitlement spending, and there is no political will for that.”

AVERY SHENFELD, CHIEF ECONOMIST AT CIBC WORLD MARKETS:

“Canada didn’t really make headway until the economy was growing reasonable well. So there is a warning as well for the U.S., which is that you can’t really get your fiscal house in order until you have at least some fundamentals for growth moving in your favor. You need to have the engines of growth going before you really put the squeeze on the economy.”

CRAIG ALEXANDER, CHIEF ECONOMIST AT TORONTO-DOMINION BANK:

“The Canadian experience and in fact, that of Japan, shows that there are instances where major industrialized countries do in fact have credit rating downgrades and it isn’t the end of the world when these things happen.”

“The difference between the United States and Greece is that Greece is not solvent. The United States is solvent. The United States can actually pay its debt -- there is no question about that. What we’re really seeing is political bickering.”

“In the United States, there are plenty of different options to deal with their deficit, they just have to have the political will to introduce them and I think that the emergence of the Tea Party has really had a huge impact in Washington in terms of the discourse. From the point of view of reaching compromise, the emergence of the Tea Party is problematic.”

Reporting by John McCrank, David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer; editing by Janet Guttsman

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