As is often the case at One Government Place, an off-topic question produced the most entertaining response from a minister.
After delivering an update on Nova Scotia‘s 2011-2012 budget forecast, Finance Minister Graham Steele was asked what he thinks about a new report from the Fraser Institute that ranked Premier Darrell Dexter first among sitting Canadian premiers in terms of fiscal restraint (report copied below).
I think I’ll just go ahead and transcribe Steele’s full response (all emphasis mine):
Reporter: Could you respond to the fact that the, although your premier is getting credit for it, the Fraser Institute put you guys at the top of the list when it comes to government spending and holding the line on spending, in comparison to growth and inflation.
Steele: Do you really want to know what I think about that?
Reporter: I do.
Steele: Do you? OK, here I go. This is unrehearsed and my staff are going to cringe when I say this. The Fraser Institute produces junk. It is not a serious institution, it is a political organization. And it is no accident that their focus is on the Ontario election (Premier Dalton McGuinty came second last-AB). They’re trying to make themselves relevant to the Ontario election. It is no accident that the three premiers they rank at the bottom (PEI’s Robert Ghiz, McGuinty, and Quebec Premier Jean Charest-AB) are three non-Conservative premiers who are up for re-election right now. So the next time the Fraser Institute issues something that has Nova Scotia at the bottom, remember that when they put us at the top, my answer is still: the Fraser Institute produces junk. It does not deserve any serious consideration.
Reporter: How do you really feel?
[There is laughter]
Steele: Remember that the next time you ask me about something else the Fraser Institute produces, that even when I could say ‘yes, this is validation of what we’re saying.’ It’s … it’s crap.
Remember we shall, minister. And next time, if you’re going to say something like that, you really don’t need to ask if we really want to know what you think about it.