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The Fate of NAFTA: Possible Scenarios and their Implications for Canada

The United States, Canada, and Mexico are scheduled to commence negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in mid-August 2017. While many observers believe that the negotiations will be “successful,” in that the Agreement will continue in some amended form, the recently announced US goals, as set out in a report by the US Trade Representative’s Office, suggest that both Canada and Mexico will face difficult political challenges if they accede to US negotiating objectives.

For the Canadian government, a number of negotiating objectives pose political challenges. Most notably, the US goal of unrestricted access to Canada’s domestic agricultural markets represents a direct threat to Canada’s dairy (and other) supply management programs. The US demand for Canada to allow entry of US firms in all sectors would require that Canada eliminate foreign investment restrictions in banking, telecommunications, and a number of cultural industries, among others. The US call for Canada to adopt US intellectual property protections would require the Canadian government to strengthen legal protections enjoyed by foreign manufacturers of branded pharmaceuticals, while the US government’s desire for unrestricted cross-border flows of digital information will, over time, threaten Canadian broadcasting regulations that directly and indirectly promote the production and distribution of Canadian entertainment programming.

While these various consequences can all be argued to be in Canada’s long-run economic interests, they might prove too politically contentious for Canada to accept, especially if Canadian negotiators fail to gain concessions from the US that are important to Canada. These include a robust dispute resolution mechanism with clear limitations on the ability of the US Administration to take trade actions against Canadian exporters.

In short, there is a reasonable prospect of NAFTA’s demise, and it is therefore important to think about the potential consequences of this development. This report addresses the trade governance consequences of NAFTA’s demise. It also offers some observations about the potential consequences for the Canadian economy in the event of NAFTA’s demise.

Our report notes that the two governments never formally ended the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which went into effect in 1989. Hence, a reasonable premise is that if NAFTA is disbanded, the FTA will “snap back” as the legal structure governing Canada-US trade and investment relations. However, if the US Administration is unhappy with Canada’s negotiating position at the upcoming NAFTA meeting, it will not be happy with a fallback to the FTA, especially since the FTA does not address the concerns recently expressed by the US Trade Representative. As such, the US Administration will undoubtedly either withdraw from the FTA or call for a renegotiation of that Agreement. Moreover, if the Canadian government found US demands at the NAFTA negotiations to be politically unacceptable, it will be even more difficult politically for Canada to agree to the demands in a purely bilateral negotiation without its Mexican partner also making obvious concessions.

If the FTA were not the governance structure for bilateral economic relations, those relations would be governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). On the surface, there would not be a dramatic change in the governance structure, since the FTA (and NAFTA, for that matter) incorporate the major principles of the WTO including national treatment, rights-of-establishment, and transparency. Furthermore, the average most-favoured nation Canadian and US tariff rates for most commodities are relatively low, although there would certainly be substantial tariff increases for specific commodities including in the important transportation equipment sector. As well, while the WTO has a dispute resolution process, many would argue that it is weaker (from Canada’s perspective) than the admittedly problematical dispute resolution process under NAFTA.

The inference one can draw is that there will be increased barriers to Canada-US trade under the WTO compared to either the FTA or the NAFTA. Empirical evidence suggests that the trade liberalization measures under the FTA increased bilateral trade and promoted efficiency gains in Canadian industries that experienced the largest decreases in trade protection, although the magnitudes of these FTA-related changes are uncertain. Indeed, some economists argue that the magnitudes are relatively small when other factors influencing bilateral trade are taken into account, such as the Canada-US exchange rate.

Against this background, one might conclude that a reversion to the WTO as the governance regime for Canada-US economic relations would have only modest impacts on the Canadian economy, especially if Mexico did not conclude a successful bilateral agreement with the US. This conclusion is strengthened by the observation that Canada can and should continue to work towards liberalizing trade with its other trade partners, including those in the relatively fast-growing Pacific Rim. Nevertheless, a successfully renegotiated NAFTA is more economically advantageous for Canada than a reversion to the WTO regime or than two separate US bilateral agreements with its NAFTA partners.

Even though domestic trade and investment liberalization may hurt specific Canadian producers, such liberalization is in the long-run economic interests of Canada as a whole. Furthermore, some of the US demands, such as the call to reduce trade barriers related to differences in regulations and for expedited customs procedures, would unequivocally improve the bilateral trade environment. However, if NAFTA cannot be successfully renegotiated, it would not be economic Armageddon for Canada.

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Rae Days in Alberta: The Notley Government at Two Years

When Premier Notley took office two years ago in Alberta, her new government faced severe fiscal challenges. The province had a large and growing budget deficit and was headed towards net debt status for the first time in approximately 15 years.

It was impossible to predict in advance with any degree of confidence how Premier Notley would confront these challenges. Canadian history shows us that political labels are not a reliable predictor of a new government’s approach to fiscal policy. All of Canada’s major parties have produced governments that have pursued sound approaches to fiscal management. Similarly, all have produced governments that were far less successful in this area.

When Premier Notley took office, there were at least two broad historical models of NDP fiscal management from which she could have drawn. One of these was the Bob Rae model of higher spending and increased taxes. The other was the Roy Romanow model from Saskatchewan characterized by spending discipline. Both premiers inherited daunting fiscal challenges and big deficits in the early 1990s, but took markedly different approaches to addressing those challenges, and these approaches produced vastly different outcomes.

Two years into her government, it is clear that Premier Notley is following the example and model set by Bob Rae in Ontario during the early 1990s. For example, during his first two years in office, Premier Rae increased program spending in Ontario by approximately 16 percent. Premier Notley has taken a very similar path, increasing program spending by 11 percent during her first two years in office. These policy choices contrast sharply with those made by Roy Romanow’s government in Saskatchewan, which reduced spending in nominal terms during its initial years in office and then essentially held nominal spending flat through the rest of its first mandate.

On tax policy, the Alberta NDP is again closely following the approach taken by Bob Rae’s government during the early 1990s, which increased a number of different taxes on Ontarians. Similarly, the Alberta NDP under Premier Notley has increased taxes repeatedly. Significant tax increases include those to the personal income tax and the corporate income tax, as well as a broadening of the province’s carbon levy, which is scheduled to see further increases in the future.

When it comes to fiscal outcomes, Premier Notley also appears to be on track for a record that looks much more like Premier Rae’s than Premier Romanow’s. Premier Romanow reduced spending and was able to eliminate a large deficit in just three years. By contrast, Premier Rae ran large deficits throughout his term in office. According to Alberta’s most recent fiscal plan, Premier Notley’s NDP government expects to run large deficits in every year of its mandate, thereby following Bob Rae’s example.

In a study published by the Fraser Institute two years ago, we wrote:

As Premier Notley and her cabinet work to develop their fiscal policy strategy, they would be well-advised to follow the model of New Democratic governance provided by their neighbours in Saskatchewan during the early 1990s. If, instead, they emulate the Ontario NDP model for the same time period, the result will likely be increased spending, higher taxes, unsustainable deficits, and reduced prosperity for Albertans in the years ahead.

Two years later, it is clear that the Notley government has indeed chosen to reject the Romanow model in favour of the Rae model. Unfortunately, but predictably, the Rae policy approach is producing similar fiscal outcomes in Alberta today as it did in Ontario during the 1990s. Albertans will continue to feel the consequences of these decisions and outcomes for many years to come.

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Wishful Thinking: An Analysis of Ontario’s Timeline for Shrinking Its Debt Burden

Since 2007/08, Ontario’s level of public debt has approximately doubled. As a result, the provincial debt-to-GDP ratio has climbed to historically high levels in recent years.

In its 2017 budget, Premier Wynne’s government presented a timeline for reducing the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio back to pre-recession levels—which is to say 26 to 27 percent—by 2029/30. This report analyzes the government’s strategy and timeline.

We show that the government’s selection of a target date so far into the future exposes the provincial economy to a number of costs and risks, including increased spending on debt service payments over time. What’s more, we conclude that the government’s timeline for achieving even this unambitious target date relies on several questionable assumptions and therefore is not entirely credible.

First, the government indicates there will be significant debt accumulation throughout the life of its current fiscal plan—the only period during which detailed revenue and expenditure estimates are available. The government calls for debt to increase, on average, by $11.4 billion per year over the next three years. This is down only very slightly from the pace of debt accumulation over the past three years—$11.6 billion per year.

Because the province plans to continue adding debt, it does not expect to make any meaningful progress in reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio in the near term. In fact, between the 2015/16 and 2020/21 fiscal years, the government’s plan calls for this ratio to fall at an average annual rate of just 0.4 percentage points. At this rate, it would take approximately 25 more years to return to pre-recession debt-to-GDP levels.

The government projects it will achieve its much closer target date of 2029/30 only by assuming a rapid increase in the pace of debt reduction in the later years of its timeline—for which no revenue or expenditure plans are available. In fact, the government forecasts that the rate of reduction in the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio will approximately triple in the final eight years of its timeline, rising to 1.1 percentage points annually.

Achieving this objective will require the government to essentially stop adding any new debt around 2021 and for the provincial economy to maintain sustained, robust economic growth throughout the following decade. This timeline relies upon two questionable assumptions.

First, it assumes the government will essentially stop adding debt around 2021. Given that it has added billions of dollars of debt every year since 2003 and it plans to continue doing so through the life of its current detailed fiscal plan, it would be naïve to accept this assumption at face value. In short, the government’s refusal to curtail its reliance on substantial new debt to fund its activities raises questions about the credibility of its commitments to do so beginning several years from now.

Second, Ontario’s economy is already eight years into an economic expansion. The government’s plan assumes another twelve years of sustained and relatively robust economic growth.

If either of these assumptions does not come to pass, the government’s target date will have to be pushed even further off into the future.

In addition to its analysis of Ontario’s debt timeline, this report contrasts Ontario’s fiscal strategy with the one being implemented in Quebec. Quebec has already stopped adding to its nominal debt burden and is therefore already in the process of making substantial annual progress in reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio.

Quebec’s significant progress in just a short period shows that it is possible to quickly reduce a large debt-to-GDP burden such as the one both Quebec and Ontario face. Unlike Ontario’s projections, Quebec’s projections that it will continue to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio are entirely credible since they are consistent with the province’s recent performance.

The contrast with Quebec highlights the weaknesses of Ontario’s timeline. Ontario’s plan involves continued debt accumulation in the years ahead and relies on risky assumptions to offer forecasts of future debt-to-GDP reductions that, unfortunately, amount to little more than wishful thinking.

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The Price of Public Health Care Insurance, 2017 edition
  • Canadians often misunderstand the true cost of our public health care system. This occurs partly because Canadians do not incur direct expenses for their use of health care, and partly because Canadians cannot readily determine the value of their contribution to public health care insurance.
  • In 2017, the estimated average payment for public health care insurance ranges from $3,994 to $12,410 for six common Canadian family types, depending on the type of family.
  • For the average Canadian family, between 1997 and 2017, the cost of public health care insurance increased 3.2 times as fast as the cost of food, 2.7 times as fast as the cost of clothing, 1.9 times as fast as the cost of shelter, and 1.8 times faster than average income.
  • The 10% of Canadian families with the lowest incomes will pay an average of about $471 for public health care insurance in 2017. The 10% of Canadian families who earn an average income of $63,163 will pay an average of $5,789 for public health care insurance, and the families among the top 10% of income earners in Canada will pay $39,123.
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Safety First: Intermodal Safety for Oil and Gas Transportation

A contentious road lies ahead for the construction of three recently approved oil pipelines (Trans Mountain, Line 3, and Keystone XL). Given continued opposition to oil and gas infrastructure, we have examined the latest data on the safety of oil and gas transport. In general, the transport of oil and gas is quite safe by all modes we examine: pipeline, rail, and tanker, though there are differences between the modes that should be considered when developing infrastructure.

Pipelines suffer few occurrences (accidents and incidents) given the amount of oil and gas that is shipped through them. Overall, between 2004 and 2015, pipelines experienced approximately 0.05 occurrences per million barrels of oil equivalent (Mboe) transported.

When petroleum and natural gas goods are evaluated separately, we find that the transportation of oil results in fewer occurrences than the transport of natural gas. Indeed, transporting petroleum products by pipelines resulted in approximately 0.04 occurrences per Mboe compared to 0.07 for natural gas products. This means that the rate of occurrences for transporting natural gas products was 1.67 times greater than the rate of occurrences for petroleum products.

The focus on the occurrence rate only tells part of the story for pipeline safety. In addition to having low occurrence rates, almost 70 percent of pipeline occurrences result in spills of less than 1 cubic metre (17 percent result in no spill). Only 17 percent of pipeline occurrences take place in the actual line pipe, meaning that the vast majority of spills occur in facilities that often have secondary containment mechanisms and procedures. The results were similar for rail, where the transportation of oil was found to result in fewer accidents per Mboe transported than natural gas. Also similar to the data on pipelines, most rail accidents occurred in facilities rather than in transit.

While both pipeline and rail transportation of oil and gas are quite safe, when comparing the two modes of transportation, pipelines continue to result in fewer accidents and fewer releases of product, when taking into consideration the amount of product moved.

Specifically, based on petroleum product transport data from 2004 to 2015, pipelines were 2.5 times less likely than rail to result in a release of product when transporting a million barrels of oil. This study also evaluated marine tanker safety in light of the additional oil tankers that will result from the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Since the mid-1990s there has not been a single major spill from oil tankers or other vessels in Canadian waters. One recent study conducted by the federal government on marine oil spill preparedness estimated that a major spill of over 10,000 tonnes was exceedingly rare and likely to only occur once every 242 years. Likewise, a spill of 100 to 1,000 tonnes is expected to occur once every 69.2 years.

Marine safety has also improved dramatically since the 1970s. For example, when comparing the number of spills in the 1970s to the 2010s (up to 2016) using international data, the number of spills between 7 and 700 tonnes has decreased from 543 to 35 and in this same period the number of large spills (>700 tonnes) has declined from 245 to 12. The amount of oil spilled has also dropped dramatically, falling from three million tonnes in the 1970s to only 39,000 tonnes in the 2010s.

In addition, compared to pipelines and rail, marine tanker transport is found to result in the fewest number of accidents per million barrels of oil transported.

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The Economic Effects of Banning Temporary Replacement Workers

British Columbia and Quebec are the only two provinces in Canada that ban the hiring of temporary workers to replace existing employees who are participating in a labour strike or lockout. Although no other Canadian jurisdiction bans temporary replacement workers, or “scabs” as they are colloquially known, it is the subject of recurring debate at both the federal and provincial levels of government.

However, empirical research—based on the experience in British Columbia and Quebec (and a brief ban in Ontario)—shows there are several negative consequences associated with banning temporary replacement workers, both on the broader economy (investment, wages, and jobs) and labour relations (the frequency and duration of strikes).

To understand the economic effects of bans on hiring temporary replacement workers, first consider how the ban affects an employer during a strike or lockout. The ban makes it more difficult and costly for an employer to operate or serve customers during a work stoppage, and this affords union negotiators a marked advantage during collective bargaining by increasing the financial pressure that employers face during a work stoppage.

Meanwhile, workers participating in a strike are able to lessen their own financial pressure by finding employment elsewhere while the strike or lockout is under way. Unions can also provide strike pay to cushion the financial impact on workers. There is a clear imbalance in the way the law is applied to employers on the one hand, and unionized workers on the other.

A number of empirical studies have found direct negative consequences associated with banning temporary replacement workers. One serious adverse effect of such bans is on investment. Entrepreneurs and investors are discouraged from investing and doing business in a jurisdiction with a ban because the ban can raise labour costs and lower the return on investment.

The adverse effect on investment helps explain a counterintuitive finding in the empirical literature: banning temporary replacement workers lowers union wages. Crucially, investment provides workers with the tools, equipment, and technology they need to improve their productivity. And productivity, which is the value produced per hour worked, is closely tied to the compensation that a worker earns. Workers that produce greater value for a given amount of labour input can command higher wages. That is why a decline in investment depresses worker compensation in the longer term. While union negotiators may pressure employers to pay higher wages, the benefit to workers of those higher wages is short term; in the long term, workers ultimately lose out on wage gains that they would have attained through increased productivity had investment levels been higher in the absence of the replacement worker ban.

Another unintended consequence of bans on temporary replacement workers is fewer available job opportunities. When businesses are discouraged from investing (i.e., setting up, developing, or expanding operations) or hiring labour, the result is that fewer jobs are created.

Despite these demonstrably adverse economic consequences, a common argument made for banning replacement workers is that the policy results in fewer and shorter strikes, and generally contributes to more peaceful labour relations. It is true that long strikes can be costly because they disrupt the production of goods and services and the lives of those who are involved. However, contrary to the argument made by the ban’s proponents, empirical studies show that banning replacement workers leads to more frequent and, on balance, longer strikes. In addition, consider that from 2008 to 2016, British Columbia and Quebec, which both maintain the ban, have had the highest number of work days lost due to work stoppages (strikes and lockouts) among Canadian provinces.

Canadian labour relations laws tend to be imbalanced and prescriptive, which are important considerations in the long-running debate about banning temporary replacement workers. If a Canadian jurisdiction without such a ban were to adopt it, it would be a step in the wrong direction for a set of labour relations laws that are already less balanced and more prescriptive than in jurisdictions in the United States. Put differently, a ban on temporary replacement workers in federally regulated industries in Canada, or in the eight provinces that do not already have a ban, would make the labour relations laws in those jurisdictions even less conducive to investment and economic growth. On the other hand, removing the ban in British Columbia and Quebec would be a step towards more balanced laws, which would be of benefit to workers in those provinces.

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Evaluating Electricity Price Growth in Ontario

Electricity is an essential part of our modern lives. It powers our economy, generating the economic activity that underpins our high living standards. It also allows Canadians to enjoy the comforts of modern life, from warm homes and warm meals to internet access and entertainment. The full enjoyment of these benefits depends on electricity remaining affordable for people across the income spectrum.

But affordable electricity appears to be a growing challenge for Ontarians. In fact, electricity prices in Ontario have risen substantially over the last decade, placing a burden on many Ontarian households. Indeed, the province of Ontario has the fastest growing electricity prices in the country and its cities have some of the highest average residential monthly bills in Canada.

Electricity prices in Ontario have increased dramatically since 2008 based on a variety of comparative measures. Ontario's electricity prices have risen by 71 percent from 2008 to 2016, far outpacing electricity price growth in other provinces, income, and inflation. During this period, the average growth in electricity prices across Canada was 34 percent.

Ontario's electricity price change between 2015 and 2016 alone is also substantial: the province experienced a 15 percent increase in one year. This was two-and-a-half times greater than the national average of 6 percent during the same period.

From 2008 to 2015, electricity prices also increased two-and-a-half times faster than household disposable income in Ontario. In particular, the growth in electricity prices was almost four times greater than inflation and over four-and-a-half times the growth of Ontario’s economy (real GDP).

The large electricity price increases in Ontario have also translated to significant increases in monthly residential electricity bills. Between 2010 and 2016, monthly electricity bills (including tax) in major Canadian cities increased by an average of $37.68. During the same period, electricity bills in Toronto and Ottawa increased by $77.09 and $66.96, respectively. This means that residents in Toronto experienced electricity price increases of double the national average between 2010 and 2016.

In Toronto and Ottawa, the average monthly bills for residential consumers including taxes in 2016 were $201 and $183, respectively.

On average in 2016, residents of major Canadian cities paid $141 including taxes for monthly electricity bills. This means that Toronto’s monthly electricity bills (including tax) are $60 more per month ($720 more per year) than the Canadian average. Consumers in Ottawa pay $41 more per month ($492 more per year) on electricity bills than Canadians in other provinces. Montreal had the lowest monthly electricity bills for residential consumers at $83.

The problem of skyrocketing electricity prices and high bills is a made-in-Ontario problem directly tied to the provincial government's policy choices. Ontario's policies around renewable energy (wind, solar, and biomass) have resulted in large additional costs for consumers. More specifically, Ontario’s high electricity prices can be attributed to poorly structured long term contracts, the phase-out of coal energy, and a growing electricity supply and demand imbalance in the province that is resulting in Ontario exporting electricity at a loss.

High electricity prices for Ontarians, particularly when taxation is included, should be of central concern when the government is devising energy policy decisions. Given the critically important role that affordable electricity plays in peoples' standard of living, it is time for the Ontario government to have a hard look at how their policy choices are affecting peoples’ lives. It is also time for the government to begin pursuing meaningful policy reforms aimed at lowering electricity bills for Ontario residents.

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Household Debt and Government Debt in Canada

Canadians are regularly inundated with news stories about policy concerns over household debt. These concerns, however, can be seen to be overblown once we properly account for the other side of the balance sheet. Canadian households have taken on more debt over time but they have used this debt to finance assets—real estate, for example—that are appreciating over time, causing their net worth to grow, also to unprecedented levels. The same cannot be said for government debt.

Concerns about household indebtedness focus on measures such as total household debt accumulated or the ratio of household debt to income. Based on these metrics, Canadian household debt levels are indeed near historic highs. By the end of last year, household debt reached over $2 trillion, up from $357 billion in 1990. The lion’s share of this debt—two thirds in fact—is for mortgages while the remaining third is split between consumer credit (29%) and other loans (5%). Over the same period, the total financial liabilities of the government sector grew from approximately $700 billion to $2.5 trillion while its net debt grew from over $400 billion in 1990 to reach nearly $970 billion in 2016.

The over $2 trillion in household debt is now approximately 170% of household disposable income, up from just 90% in 1990. Yet, this does not mean that Canadians are being irresponsible with household debt. To start, the above data ignore the fact that household debt growth can be a rational response to falling interest rates. For instance, the Bank of Canada rate fell dramatically from nearly 13% in 1990 to 0.75% at the end of last year. Not surprisingly, as the cost of borrowing has dropped, Canadian households have borrowed more. The drop in interest rates has reduced the burden of servicing debt despite growing household debt: interest payments on household debt now consume 6% of disposable income, compared to almost 11% in 1990.

More fundamentally, the concerns about household debt fail to account for the other side of the balance sheet—household assets, which rise over the family life-cycle. While household debt has grown substantially over the past 26 years, households are borrowing to invest in appreciating assets such as real estate, pensions, financial investments, and businesses. This has meant a substantial rise in Canadian household assets—from $2.2 trillion in 1990 to $12.3 trillion in 2016. The significant investment in assets has meant that household net worth (which is total assets minus liabilities) has surged from $1.8 trillion to $10.3 trillion—a record-setting level. As well, when taken in international context, Canada’s household debt relative to income is mid-ranked amongst OECD countries when household debt is taken as a share of household disposable income.

Government officials express concern about household debt even though households have positive net worth that has trended up over time. Yet, government measures of net worth are negative and have not changed substantially. Specifically, the collective net worth of Canadian governments was negative $129 billion in 1990, compared to negative $97 billion last year. While governments may acquire some financial assets and there is investment in assets like human capital and physical infrastructure, the bulk of debt acquired through deficit financing often supports spending on the compensation (wages and benefits) of government employees and transfers to individuals.

In the end, debt is a tool and the concern should be not with debt per se but debt that is not manageable given the economic circumstances facing households. The greatest risks to the management of household debt are economic shocks that lead to job losses that make debt servicing problematic, or increases in the interest rate that raise debt servicing costs.

To date, although small increases have been forecast, interest rates have remained low and the Canadian economy is performing adequately, with relatively low unemployment rates. Moreover, while interest rates and unemployment are of concern, they should be weighed against the fact that, despite the record high levels of household-sector debt, there are also record high levels of net worth. As for public-sector debt, large deficits and increasing debt particularly at the federal level are expected to continue.

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Leaving Canada for Medical Care 2017

Summary

  • In 2016, an estimated 63,459 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada.
  • Physicians in British Columbia reported the highest proportion of patients (in a province) receiving treatment abroad (2.4%). The largest number of patients estimated to have left the country for treatment was from Ontario (26,513).
  • Across Canada, otolaryngologists reported the highest proportion of patients (in a specialty) travelling abroad for treatment (2.1%). The largest number of patients (in a specialty) travelled abroad for general surgeries (9,454).
  • One explanation for patients travelling abroad to receive medical treatment may relate to the long waiting times they are forced endure in Canada’s health care system. In 2016, patients could expect to wait 10.6 weeks for medically necessary treatment after seeing a specialist—almost 4 weeks longer than the time physicians consider to be clinically “reasonable” (7.0 weeks).
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Where Our Students are Educated 2017

This study measures the degree to which Canadians choose between the three principal ways of educating their children: public schools, independent schools, and home schooling for the period from 2000-01 to 2014-15.

Enrolment is affected by a declining school age population. The number of Canadians aged 5 to 17 declined 6.6 percent between 2000 and 2015. Every province except Alberta (growth of 11.6 percent) recorded a decline over this period.

Public schooling

Depending on the province, education in public schools can take a variety of forms including Anglophone public, Francophone public, Anglophone separate, Francophone separate, and charter schools. In 2014-15, New Brunswick had the highest level of enrolment in public schools at 98.5 percent of total enrolment. British Columbia had the lowest enrolment level in public schools at 86.8 percent.

Every province except Alberta (increase of 13.4 percent) recorded a decline in the absolute number of students enrolled in public schools. At 24.8 percent, Newfoundland & Labrador recorded the largest decline over the period.

The highest rate of Anglophone public school enrolment in 2014-15 was in Newfoundland & Labrador (97.9 percent). Not surprisingly, Quebec maintained the lowest level of enrolment in Anglophone public schools at 8.5 percent. The lowest enrolment level outside of Quebec was Ontario at 62.6 percent.

Every province except Alberta (increase of 7.7 percent) experienced a decline in absolute enrolment in Anglophone public schools between 2000-01 and 2014-15. Every province except New Brunswick also experienced a decline in the share of enrolment represented by Anglophone public schools over this period.

Quebec maintains the highest level of enrolment in public Francophone schools at 79.1 percent. New Brunswick follows Quebec in terms of enrolment in public Francophone schools at 28.8 percent.

However, both provinces actually recorded declines in enrolment in Francophone public schools between 2000-01 and 2014-15 of 12.8 percent and 24.6 percent, respectively. The eight remaining provinces all experienced increases in the enrolment levels in Francophone public schools.

Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta also offer separate schools (primarily Roman Catholic) within their respective public school systems. More than one in five students in 2014-15 in each of these provinces was educated in a separate school: 24.9 percent in Alberta, 22.8 percent in Saskatchewan, and 29.4 percent in Ontario.

Enrolment in separate schools in Ontario, both in absolute numbers and as a share of total enrolment, is declining. Alternatively, enrolment in separate schools in both Alberta and Saskatchewan is increasing in both absolute numbers and as a share of total enrolment.

The final category of public schooling is charter schools. Alberta is the only province in Canada that allows this option. Although only a modest number of students enroll in charter schools as a share of total enrolment (1.4 percent), absolute enrolment has increased an impressive 257.0 percent over the period, from 2,558 pupils in 2000-01 to 9,131 in 2014-15.

Independent schools

British Columbia has the highest level of enrolment in independent schools (12.9 percent of total enrolment) in Canada, with Quebec following closely at 12.3 percent of students. New Brunswick maintains the lowest level of enrolment in independent schools (0.8 percent). Indeed, all of the Atlantic Provinces record comparatively low levels of independent school enrolment.

Every province except New Brunswick (decline of 12.7 percent) saw the number of students enrolled in independent schools grow between 2000-01 and 2014-15. However, all provinces saw growth in the share of total enrolment for independent schools. Independent schools in Saskatchewan saw the greatest amount of growth in both the number of students (89.8 percent) and the share of total enrolment (increase of 102.3 percent) as they increased from 1.2 percent of total enrolment in 2000-01 to 2.4 percent of total enrolment in 2014-15.

Home schooling

Finally, the paper measures home schooling, wherein parents are the primary providers of education to their children. In 2014-15, Manitoba recorded the highest proportion of students enrolled in home schooling at 1.5 percent. Seven provinces record home schooling enrolment rates of less than 1 percent, but every province except British Columbia has experienced an increase in both absolute enrolment in home schooling and as share of total enrolment.

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