The CEO Poll: Do not extend the stimulus

CEOs have little faith in government's ability to improve the economy.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page recently released a report stating hundreds of millions of dollars allotted for the federal government’s stimulus package might not be spent when the program expires on March 31, 2011. The report prompted some politicians to worry that municipalities unable to complete their infrastructure projects by the deadline could be left picking up the tab. NDP Leader Jack Layton called for an extension of the deadline.

But CEOs recently surveyed by COMPAS Inc. were divided on the issue. For a number of reasons, less than half felt strongly that the deadline should be extended.

‘You can’t spend yourself rich,’ wrote one respondent.

‘Municipalities are chronic in their inability to hit deadlines,’ according to another. ‘They shouldn’t be rewarded by extending deadlines with no conditions.’

The only good reason to extend the deadline, according to the respondents, is to allow municipalities to complete projects that are behind schedule because of bad weather or other issues beyond their control.

The respondents were also split on how much good a government can actually do for a nation’s economy, particularly when the world economy is performing poorly. Just under half of the CEOs agreed that a skilled government can bolster the economy in a moribund global environment.

‘Putting us further in debt isn’t going to help stimulate the economy,’ wrote one CEO. ‘Only business ‘makes’ money.’

Even so, the respondents greatly prefer Prime Minister Stephen Harper to manage the economy than Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Harper earned the approval of 67% of the respondents, while Ignatieff received 11%, and 7% were undecided. The rest said ‘neither.’