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Federal debt: a 50% increase under the Trudeau government

  • The gross debt represents $47,179 per Canadian.

Montreal, April 18, 2023 – The federal government’s gross debt has increased by 50% since the start of the Trudeau government’s first mandate, shows an Economic Note published this morning by the Montreal Economic Institute.

“Except for one year when it shrank slightly, the gross debt has been growing constantly since 2008, and that growth has accelerated since 2016,” says Nathalie Elgrably-Lévy, senior economist at the MEI and author of the Note. “Yet money doesn’t seem to be a constraint for Ottawa. This government’s obsession with putting everything on the credit card is particularly worrisome.”

The gross debt corresponds to all of the federal government’s debts and unfunded financial commitments. It totalled over $1.8 trillion on March 31, 2022, or $47,179 per Canadian.

The study reminds us that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government had embraced deficits, with increases in spending having outpaced revenue increases since the Trudeau government took office.

In the economic literature, a growing government debt is associated with a reduction in funds available for helping the most vulnerable, with a slowdown in economic growth, and with a problem of intergenerational equity as the burden of the debt is left for future generations to deal with.

“The growth of the debt is not without consequences. It reduces investment in other spheres of economic activity, reduces our capacity to help the most vulnerable, and leaves an enormous burden for future generations,” says Ms. Elgrably-Lévy. “Unfortunately, Canadians will be paying for this government’s short-sightedness for a long time to come.”

You can consult the MEI publication here.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship. 

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