The Cost of Government Debt in Canada, 2017
Budget deficits and increasing debt are key fiscal issues as the federal and provincial governments prepare to release their budgets this year. Combined federal and provincial net debt has increased from $833 billion in 2007/08 to a projected $1.4 trillion in 2016/17. This combined debt equals 67.5% of the Canadian economy or $37,476 for every man, woman, and child living in Canada.
Debt accumulation has costs. One major consequence is that governments must make interest payments on their debt similar to households which must pay interest on borrowing related to mortgages, vehicles, or credit card spending. Spending on interest payments consumes government revenues and leaves less money available for other important priorities such as spending on health care and education or tax relief.
Canadian governments (including local governments) collectively spent $62.8 billion on interest payments in 2015/16. That works out to 8.1% of their total revenue that year and $1,752 for each Canadian or $7,009 for a family of four. The total amount spent on interest payments is approximately equal to Canada’s total spending on public primary and secondary education ($63.9 billion, as of 2013/14, the last year for which we have finalized data).