Monday, May 22, 2017
Trudeau government close to breaking all-time record for per-capita federal spending: Fraser Institute
Fraser InstituteDetail of graphic showing the per-capita program spending for each Canadian Prime Minister.
With the Liberals planning to spend $8,337 per person in 2017, the government of Justin Trudeau is close to breaking the all-time record for per-capita federal expenditures, according to a new report by the Fraser Institute.
The number one spot, however, remains Stephen Harper. The Conservative leader hit a per-Canadian total of $8,375 in 2009 when he was overseeing spending increases intended to counteract the effects of the global recession.
However, the Fraser Institute noted that the Liberals’ spending peak is coming at a time of relative prosperity and peace.
“Prime Minister Trudeau’s historically high level of spending comes in the absence of a recession or war,” read a statement by the institute, which generally advocates for lower taxes and smaller government.
Graphic showing the per-capita program spending for each Canadian Prime Minister.
The new report, which covers every Canadian budget since 1870, matched prime ministers with their per-capita spending adjusted to 2017 dollars.
The report only covers “program” spending, and ignores all spending on debt servicing, arguing that it would “penalize or reward” prime ministers based on how much debt they inherited.
In Canada’s first decades, the country’s relatively bare-bones government spent only a few hundred dollars per person.
Graph showing the rise in per-capita federal spending since 1870.
But following the colossal costs of the Second World War — as well as a decade of steep budget increases overseen by Pierre Trudeau — both Liberal and conservative government have generally run budgets that cost between $6,000 and $7,000 per Canadian.
A notable exception is the 1990s, when sharp austerity measures under Prime Minister Jean Chretien dropped that figure to about $5,500.
Following their election in 2015, spending increases by the Trudeau government have incurred annual 11-figure deficits.
At the most recent budget announcement by finance minister Bill Morneau, the government projected budget shortfalls that could top $120 billion by 2022.
At $8,337-per-Canadian, federal spending in 2017 is equal to $22.84 per Canadian, per day.
In contrast, the projected per-Canadian spending by Harper’s Conservatives prior to their defeat was set at $7,760 — or, $21.26 per Canadian per day.
The report also tracked prime ministers by the maximum spending change they ever racked up in a single year.
Trudeau’s stood at 5.2 per cent, the third largest since the end of the Second World War.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to speak at a Liberal party fundraiser Thursday, May 4, 2017 in Montreal.
However, the most dramatic spending increases all came in the early days of Confederation, when prime ministers were playing with relatively small amounts of money.
Robert Borden oversaw a single spending increase of 12.8 per cent, and Mackenzie King saw spending spike by 9 per cent — but both cases were due to world wars.
The prime minister responsible for the most dramatic spending cut, meanwhile, is the usually overlooked conservative leader Arthur Meighen, who saw spending shrink by an incredible 23.1 per cent in 1921.
Although, in Meighen’s case, that was fuelled in large part by demobilization following the end of the First World War.