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Statistics -> Government of Canada Debt

Federal Debt

The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) published the Supplementary Estimates (B) 2020-21 on November 4, 2020.  Part of the introduction states, quite bluntly (emphasis in bold is ours): 

While the sum of these measures is significant, the amount of information that is publicly available to track this spending is lacking, thus making it more challenging for parliamentarians to perform their critical role in overseeing Government spending and holding it to account.

As of the publication of this report, there is currently no public document published by the Government which provides a complete list of all measures announced to date, or updated cost estimates. There is also no consistency to which organizations publicly report on the implementation of these measures. Some organizations have proactively published this data, while others have not.

This lack of data is not a result of it not being available. The Department of Finance had been providing bi-weekly updates to the Standing Committee on Finance (FINA), but stopped when Parliament was prorogued in August 2020.

None of the data below has been revised since July 8th.

Projected total federal interest-bearing March 31, 2021 = $1.426 trillion, based on the July 8, 2020 Economic and Fiscal Snapshot deficit projections and the March 31, 2020 Fiscal Monitor.

 - for every Canadian adult and child: $37,625, up 39% from March 31, 2019.

 - for a family of 4: $150,500.

Note:  This is only the federal debt, does not include provincial debt.

Federal interest-bearing debt at March 31, 2020 was $1.083 trillion, with a deficit for the 2019-20 fiscal year of 21.8 billion.

Interest for 2019-20 fiscal year was $24.6 billion

Federal deficit 2020-21: expected to be $343.2 billion (keeps climbing).

COVID-19 statistics to July 8, 2020:

Canada (population 37.9 million):  108,199 confirmed, 8,777 deaths

Taiwan (population 23.8 million): 449 confirmed, 7 deaths

It's unfortunate that the Canadian government did not act as quickly as Taiwan and some other countries  to reduce flights from China and put in protective measures that allowed them to keep schools and businesses open.  This could have avoided a lot of deaths and debt.

Sources

July 8, 2020 Economic and Fiscal Snapshot

Parliamentary Budget Officer COVID-19 Analysis

Department of Finance Fiscal Monitor March 31, 2020

CBC: Federal projected spending on direct supports due to COVID-19

Statistics Canada Quarterly Population Estimates

Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard

CBC: Inside Taiwan during COVID-19: How the country kept schools and businesses open throughout pandemic

Reuters: Taiwan to suspend most flights to China (Feb 7)

Government of Canada Debt in Selected Years

The Canadian debt is confusing, because several different numbers are reported.  As of March 31, 2019, which is the financial year end for the Government of Canada, here are the various numbers, in $millions:

Total interest-bearing debt $1,025,464
Add accounts payable and accrued liabilities 159,707
Federal gross debt 1,185,171
Less financial assets  -413,047
Net debt 772,124
Less non-financial assets 86,674
Federal debt (accumulated deficit) used by the CTF debt clock   $685,450

We are paying almost $24 billion in interest on the federal debt every year, at historically low interest rates!

When the debt includes all levels of government, Canada's total gross government debt in 2017 was 90.1% of GDP, or $1.9 trillion, or $52,859 for every man, woman and child in Canada, or $211,436 for a family of 4.  See our article on Debt in Selected Countries for the significance of this number.  The Canadian government gross debt for all levels of government (total, and as % of GDP) is from the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook Database.

The total government gross debt is reported in the table below.  Most organizations focus on the Federal Debt (accumulated deficit), which is a much lower total than the gross government debt.

Year
Ending
Mar 31
Federal Government Debt Only All Levels of Government Debt
Interest-
Bearing Debt
$billions
Gross Debt
$billions
Debt as
% of
GDP
Population
millions
Debt per
person
$
Party in Power Gross Debt
$Billions
Debt
as %
of GDP
Debt
per
person
$
1967 $26.9 $28.4 43.8% 20.0 $1,419 Liberal - Apr 22/63 to Jun 3/79 Data prior to 1980 unavailable.
1971 35.7 38.0 42.2% 21.6 1,764
1976 55.0 61.0 35.1% 23.5 2,600
1979 90.2 99.2 36.9% 24.0 4,134
1980 97.8 107.1 40.5% 24.2 4,424 Progressive Conservative - Jun 4/79 to Mar 2/80 144.9 44.9% $5,989
1981 111.7 123.6 39.3% 24.8 4,978 Liberal - Mar 3/80 to Sep 16/84 170.9 46.4% 6,892
1983 153.5 170.9 44.2% 25.4 6,728 242.7 57.6% 9,557
1984(1) 210.5 245.0 58.4% 25.6 9,569 280.1 60.6% 10,943
1985 245.7 284.5 61.8% 25.8 11,026 Progressive Conservative - Sep 17/84 to Nov 3/93 328.1 65.6% 12,719
1986 280.0 319.4 64.1% 26.1 12,236 367.6 69.8% 14,086
1991 432.8 487.7 70.4% 28.0 17,397 570.1 81.2% 20,362
1992 468.2 524.2 76.5% 28.4 18,459 638.6 88.9% 22,485
1993 504.8 563.2 80.4% 28.7 19,623 707.7 94.7% 24,657
1994 543.5 607.3 81.6% 29.0 20,940 Liberal - Nov 4/93 to Feb 5/06 772.0 97.5% 26,621
1996 616.4 691.3 83.4% 29.7 23,297 861.9 100.2% 29,021
2001 625.1 713.6 64.7% 31.0 23,004 932.4 81.5% 30,076
2002 619.8 703.0 61.6% 31.4 22,408 950.2 79.6% 30,262
2003 615.8 699.0 58.8% 31.7 22,073 952.5 75.9% 30,047
2004 614.9 700.1 56.0% 32.0 21,895 960.2 71.9% 30,008
2005 607.2 705.0 53.0% 32.2 21,863 1,004.2 70.6% 31,187
2006 601.1 702.5 49.6% 32.6 21,565 Conservative - Feb 6/06 to Nov 3, 2015 1,046.4 69.9% 32,099
2007 599.3 705.8 47.3% 32.9 21,432 1,054.8 66.9% 32,062
2008 581.9 692.3 44.0% 33.3 20,781 1,127.3 68.0% 33,853
2009 714.4 828.4 50.1% 33.6 24,655 1,247.6 79.4% 37,130
2010 767.8 887.9 56.6% 34.0 26,114 1,355.1 81.3% 39,857
2011 808.4 926.9 55.8% 34.3 27,023 1,453.1 81.9% 42,364
2012 852.5 976.5 55.2% 34.7 28,140 1,562.8 85.5% 45,037
2013 908.6 1,026.3 56.3% 35.1 29,238 1,640.0 86.2% 46,724
2014 904.1 1,014.9 53.5% 35.4 28,669 1,709.6 85.7% 48,295
2015 916.6 1,037.2 52.1% 35.7 29,053 1,817.7 91.3% 50,915
2016 950.2 1,074.3 54.0% 36.1 29,759 Liberal - Nov 4, 2015 to present 1,862.2 91.8% 51,585
2017 984.3 1,111.3 54.9% 36.5 30,446 1,929.3 90.1% 52,859
2018 1,002.6 1,150.4 53.7% 37.1 31,007 2,009.8 90.6% 54,172
2019 1,025.5 1,185.2 53.3% 37.4 31,689 2,015.0 88.0% 53,877
2020 1,083.1 1,229.4 53.4% 38.0 32,378 not available
2021 Fcst 1,426.3 1,572.6 72.9% 38.5 40,847

Notes:  

bullet The debt per person is per every man, woman and child in Canada.  This means that the March 31, 2020 gross federal debt for a family of 4 is $163,388.  The interest-bearing debt per person is lower at $28,503, but is forecast to increase to $37,047 by March 31, 2021.  The 2021 forecast assumes that the interest-bearing debt and the gross debt both increase by the same amount as the 2020-21 projected deficit of $343.2 billion. However, the July 8 Economic and Fiscal Snapshot forecasts the accumulated deficit (net debt) to increase by $364 billion.
bullet Cells shaded in grey are International Monetary Fund Staff estimates.
bullet (1) Full accrual accounting was introduced in the fiscal year ending March 31, 1984.  This made the data from 1984 onward not directly comparable with earlier years.  The Gross Debt in earlier years would have been higher using full accrual accounting.

The Federal government paid $23.3 billion in interest expense for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019.  The interest expense for each year can be found in the Department of Finance Fiscal Reference Tables 2019, Table 7 Expenses (Public Debt Charges).

The Federal Interest-bearing Debt and Gross Debt above are as reported in the Department of Finance Fiscal Reference Tables 2019, Table 15 Gross and Net Debt.  These amounts are as at March 31st of each year.

The % of GDP is based on the GDP at Market Prices (Statistics Canada V498074) for the prior calendar year.  For instance, the 2019 % of GDP is based on the 2018 GDP.  The amounts for the GDP are obtained from Statistics Canada table for Gross Domestic Product, Income-Based, Annual, Table 36-10-0221-01.  However, the 2018 annual GDP was not available when this table was done, so an estimate was done based on Gross Domestic Product, Income-Based, Quarterly, Table 36-10-0103-01.  Amounts from 1981 and later years had many revisions in the latest table of GDP amounts.

The population figures, which are as of July 1st of each year, are obtained from Statistics Canada Population by Year, by Province and Territory.  The 2019 population is from Population Estimates, Quarterly, Table 17-10-0009-01, using Q2 2019.

The party in power is from the Parliament of Canada - Prime Ministers of Canada since 1867 information.

There is a wealth of information available on the Department of Finance website, including Fiscal Reference Tables where you can see not only Federal information, but also information such as the public accounts (net debt) of the provincial and territorial governments.

In 2011, the Canadian federal government committed to making their government more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens, through participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

See also:

Canada's National Debt Clock which shows federal debt (accumulated deficit), not gross debt, from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Tax Tip:  Reduce your own debt, and pressure your government to reduce its debt!

Revised: March 06, 2021

 

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