Prime Ministers and Government Spending: Updated 2020 Edition

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Prime Ministers and Government Spending: Updated 2020 Edition


  • This essay updates the previous 2020 measure of per-person program spending by prime ministers, adjusting for inflation, since 1870. This essay focuses on the potential level of spending in 2020 based on the government’s response to the COVID-induced recession, up to April 24, 2020.
  • Per-person federal program spending will reach an estimated $13,226 in 2020, by far the highest level in the history of the country. This includes $3,920 in per-person spending related to responses to the recession and COVID-19 more generally.
  • Even the pre-recession planned spending for 2020—$9,306 per person—would have been the highest in Canada’s history, increasing 3.2% from 2019, which was itself then the highest level of per-person spending on record.
  • Indeed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recorded the three highest levels of per-person spending (2018, 2019, and 2020) in Canadian history.
  • To put 2020’s expected per-person spending in context ($13,226), it is 50.7% higher than during the 2009 recession and 74.5% higher than the highest point of per-person spending during World War II.

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