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Report ranks premiers from best, Mike Harris, to worst, Pauline Marois

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VANCOUVER - A new Vancouver-based think-tank says it has conducted a performance review of 80 premiers since 1981 and former Ontario premier Mike Harris, a Tory, was rated the best while Quebec's PQ premier Pauline Marois was the worst.

Aha! Insights Inc. has produced its inaugural report, called Premier Class: Canada's Best and Worst Leaders.

The study only assesses four current premiers but concludes that of those, Saskatchewan's Brad Wall of the right-wing Saskatchewan Party is at the top while Ontario's Kathleen Wynne, a Liberal, takes last place.

Co-author Mark Mullins, CEO of Aha!, says the study used 11 fiscal and economic outcomes, such as job growth, balanced budgets, and business investment.

He says the conclusion is that "leadership and fiscal and economic policies really do matter."

Overall, the study suggests Alberta has had the best set of premiers since 1981, followed by British Columbia and Ontario; Quebec's premiers as a group were in last place.

"This study can serve as a reference guide to the federal election," says co-author Mark Milke.

"Three decades of evidence shows there is a close link between premiers' party affiliation and what they achieve in office."

The report shows small-c conservative premiers dominating the rankings, taking nine of the top 10 spots and two thirds of the top 20, though every party has at least two premiers in the bottom 10 spots.

The report lauds Harris for running a lean government, with low revenue and spending levels, and slow growth in spending and public sector jobs, while knocking Marois for large budget deficits, a decline in private-sector jobs and declining business investment.

Six current premiers — Rachel Notley of Alberta, Philippe Couillard of Quebec, Brian Gallant of New Brunswick, Wade MacLauchlan of Prince Edward Island, Paul Davis of Newfoundland and Labrador and Stephen McNeil of Nova Scotia — were not assessed.

The think-tank says the six have been in office for less than two years "and therefore have fairly limited track records."

It says Wall, who has an overall ranking of 13th, has done a good job with economic growth and attracting people from other provinces but says his weakness is a very high level of government spending.

"This may be an Achilles heel for him, leading to longer-lived structural deficits, given ongoing weakness in resource prices and government revenues," says the report.

It says Wynne, who has an overall ranking of 36th, has constrained spending and public-sector jobs growth, but her government has produced a series of large deficits "that are delaying a needed fiscal adjustment."

In addition to the report, Aha! says it has produced a free set of premier playing cards with face values equal to each premier's ranking — Harris, for example, is the ace of spades and Marois is the two of clubs.

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