Webb, 93 – lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa (Kernaghan, “Thumbs, Fingers, and Pushing on String: Legal Accountability in the Use of Federal Financial Incentives”, 31 Alta. L. Rev. 501 (1993) Hein Online)
In this paper, "financial incentives" are taken to mean disbursements 18 of public funds or contingent commitments to individuals and organizations, intendedtoencourage, support or induce certain behaviours in accordance with express public policy objectives. They take the form of grants, contributions, repayable contributions, loans, loan guaranteesand insurance, subsidies, procurement contracts and tax expenditures.19 Needless to say, the ability of government to achieve desired behaviour may vary with the type of incentivein use: up-front disbursements of funds (such as with contributions and procurement contracts) may put government in a better position to dictate the terms upon which assistance is provided than contingent disbursements such as loan guarantees and insurance. In some cases, the incentive aspects of the funding come from the conditions attached to useof the monies.20 In others, the mere existence of a program providing financial assistance for a particular activity (eg. low interest loans for a nuclear power plant, or a pulp mill) may be taken as government approval of that activity, and in that sense, an incentive to encourage that type of activity has been created.21 Given the wide variety of incentive types, it will not be possible in a paper of this lengthto provide anything more than a cursory discussion of some of the main incentives used.22 And, needless to say, the comments made herein concerning accountability apply to differing degrees depending upon the type of incentive under consideration.
By limiting the definition of financialincentives to initiatives where public funds are either disbursed or contingently committed, a large number of regulatory programs with incentive effects which exist, but in which no money is forthcoming,23 are excluded from direct examination in this paper. Such programs might be referred to as indirect incentives. Through elimination of indirect incentives from the scope of discussion, thedefinition of the incentive instrument becomes both more manageable and more particular. Nevertheless, it is possible that much of the approach taken here may be usefully applied to these types of indirect incentives as well.24 Also excluded from discussion here are social assistance programs such as welfare and ad hoc industry bailout initiatives because such programs are not designed primarily to encourage behaviours in furtherance of specific public policy objectives. In effect, these programs are assistance, but they are not incentives.