Dissonance in Fiscal Policy: A Power Approach

  • Louis M. Imbeau
Part of the Studies in Public Choice book series (SIPC, volume 15)


The objective of this paper is to explore the relationship between speech and action in the budgetary process of provincial governments in Canada through a power approach. Using a three-dimensional approach to the concept of power, I ask the following question: Does the fiscal conservatism (liberalism) expressed by politicians in their policy speeches correspond to the fiscal discipline (indiscipline) they manifest when they improve (deteriorate) their budget balance? In other words, is there policy consonance or dissonance in the fiscal policy of the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec, and under which conditions is dissonance useful for the general welfare? I proceed in two steps. First, I propose a conceptualization of the relationship between speech and action based on an analysis of power relationships in the policy process, which allows me to identify the conditions of a benevolent dissonance in fiscal policy. Second, I propose an empirical test of the model measuring fiscal discipline in action and fiscal conservatism in speeches and show that indeed provincial premiers often lack transparency but that this dissonance is very often beneficial for reaching the goal of properly financing public services.


Power Relation Fiscal Policy Policy Process Provincial Government Budget Balance 
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Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management (Washington, D.C., in November 2007) and at the annual meeting of the European Public Choice Association (Jena, Germany, March 1008). I am thankful to Albert Breton, Édouard Imbeau, Grégoire Rota Graziosi, and to the discussants and participants of the workshop for their useful comments on the previous versions of this paper. I acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The usual caveat applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de science politiqueUniversité LavalQuébecCanada

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