A widely held view suggests that the main function of government is to help the poor. Do the data we have for Canada justify this opinion? The first observation is that only part of the spending of a modern government, even though it is a large part, goes toward social programs. Slightly under one-third of spending by all levels of public administration in Canada is devoted to social services, in other words to the various transfer payments supporting individual incomes along with related administrative expenses. If social programs are defined more broadly, we would have to add the 28% of spending that goes to health care and education (in roughly equal proportions). In Canada we thus have about 60% of public spending going toward social programs in the broader sense.
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