Declan drew my attention to the annexes of last week's budget. Annex 2 is "Canada's Financial Performance in an International Context", which includes interesting charts.
To me, the most remarkable was this one:
First it shows just how well Canada has been doing, from a general fiscal point of view. But it does add information that is new to me.
For one thing, this graph is total government debt, so it includes any surprises that might be found at the provincial levels. (Ontario, for example, has not done nearly as well as the federal government has in its debt control over the past decade.)
More impressively, it shows how good our perfomance has been vs. the United States (and the other G7 countries). We all knew, of course, that Canada has surpluses and the USA has deficits. What I didn't know was that Canada now has less accumulated government debt (as a share of GDP) than any other G7 country, including the USA. Our starting position, ten years ago, was so much worse.
Anyway, whether or not it is fair -- I suppose I think it is -- the credit for this change is primarily given to Paul Martin… not for his Prime Ministership, but his role as Jean Chretien's Minister of Finance.