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Federal government increased number of public service employees by more than 40%

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From the Fraser Institute

By Jake Fuss and Grady Munro

“the size of the federal public service reached 274,219 employees in 2022/23—an increase of 40.4 per cent since 2014/15”

Over the last eight years the Trudeau government has expanded the size of the federal public service to ensure it plays a more active role in the Canadian economy. However, there’s little evidence that this bigger government has made Canadians better off.

According to the Public Service Commission of Canada, the size of the federal public service reached 274,219 employees in 2022/23—an increase of 40.4 per cent since 2014/15. And according to data from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, total compensation for federal bureaucrats (adjusted for inflation) increased by nearly 37 per cent between 2015/16 and 2021/22.

This is occurring even as government workers in Canada already enjoy a substantial wage and benefit premium compared to comparable workers in the private sector. According to a recent study  published by the Fraser Institute, in 2021 (the latest year of comparable data) government workers at all levels (federal, provincial and local) received wages that were 8.5 per cent higher, on average, than Canadians employed in the private sector. (The study controls for factors such as gender, age, education, tenure and industry to provide an “apples to apples” comparison among workers.)

But higher compensation and an increasing size of the federal public service have not provided better access to government programs and services or translated into tangible economic results for Canadians.

recent poll found that only 16 per cent of Canadians believe they get good or great value from the services they receive from governments such as health care, education, police, roads and national defence. Nearly half (44 per cent) of Canadians believed they receive poor or very poor value from the services they receive.

Moreover, living standards have only improved marginally in Canada since 2015. Gross domestic product (GDP) per person—a broad measure of living standards—has grown by a meagre 5.1 per cent (inflation-adjusted) over the last eight years. By comparison, Americans have seen their living standards grow by nearly three times as much over the same timeframe.

To put this into further perspective, total compensation and employment for federal bureaucrats are increasing much faster than living standards for Canadians.

These results are not surprising. Bigger governments are not necessarily better than smaller ones. Empirical economic research suggests that economic growth is maximized when government spending ranges between 24 per cent and 32 per cent of the size of the national economy. When government spending exceeds this optimal range, government impedes both economic growth and improvements in living standards. Unfortunately, Canada’s size of government (federal, provincial and local) was far beyond the optimal level at 40.5 per cent of GDP in 2022.

Since 2015, the Trudeau government has added more administrators and managers to the federal public service and significantly increased spending—while failing to help raise the living standards of Canadians. Entrusting bureaucrats to pick winners and losers by subsidizing certain industries instead of others has not been a recipe for economic success. Instead, Ottawa appears to be competing with the private sector for skilled workers and inhibiting the national economy in the process.

Canada needs a leaner and more efficient federal government that focuses only on its core functions. Bigger government hasn’t been good for Canadians, it’s only been good for government workers.

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Economy

Prime minister’s misleading capital gains video misses the point

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From the Fraser Institute

By Jake Fuss and Alex Whalen

According to a 2021 study published by the Fraser Institute, 38.4 per cent of those who paid capital gains taxes in Canada earned less than $100,000 per year, and 18.3 per cent earned less than $50,000. Yet in his video, Prime Minister Trudeau claims that his capital gains tax hike will affect only the richest “0.13 per cent of Canadians”

This week, Prime Minister Trudeau released a video about his government’s decision to increase capital gains taxes. Unfortunately, he made several misleading claims while failing to acknowledge the harmful effects this tax increase will have on a broad swath of Canadians.

Right now, individuals and businesses who sell capital assets pay taxes on 50 per cent of the gain (based on their full marginal rate). Beginning on June 25, however, the Trudeau government will increase that share to 66.7 per cent for capital gains above $250,000. People with gains above that amount will again pay their full marginal rate, but now on two-thirds of the gain.

In the video, which you can view online, the prime minister claims that this tax increase will affect only the “very richest” people in Canada and will generate significant new revenue—$20 billion, according to him—to pay for social programs. But economic research and data on capital gains taxes reveal a different picture.

For starters, it simply isn’t true that capital gains taxes only affect the wealthy. Many Canadians who incur capital gains taxes, such as small business owners, may only do so once in their lifetimes.

For example, a plumber who makes $90,000 annually may choose to sell his business for $500,000 at retirement. In that year, the plumber’s income is exaggerated because it includes the capital gain rather than only his normal income. In fact, according to a 2021 study published by the Fraser Institute, 38.4 per cent of those who paid capital gains taxes in Canada earned less than $100,000 per year, and 18.3 per cent earned less than $50,000. Yet in his video, Prime Minister Trudeau claims that his capital gains tax hike will affect only the richest “0.13 per cent of Canadians” with an “average income of $1.4 million a year.”

But this is a misleading statement. Why? Because it creates a distorted view of who will pay these capital gains taxes. Many Canadians with modest annual incomes own businesses, second homes or stocks and could end up paying these higher taxes following a onetime sale where the appreciation of their asset equals at least $250,000.

Moreover, economic research finds that capital taxes remain among the most economically damaging forms of taxation precisely because they reduce the incentive to innovate and invest. By increasing them the government will deter investment in Canada and chase away capital at a time when we badly need it. Business investment, which is crucial to boost living standards and incomes for Canadians, is collapsing in Canada. This tax hike will make a bad economic situation worse.

Finally, as noted, in the video the prime minister claims that this tax increase will generate “almost $20 billion in new revenue.” But investors do not incur capital gains taxes until they sell an asset and realize a gain. A higher capital gains tax rate gives them an incentive to hold onto their investments, perhaps until the rate is reduced after a change in government. According to economists, this “lock-in” effect can stifle economic activity. The Trudeau government likely bases its “$20 billion” number on an assumption that investors will sell their assets sooner rather than later—perhaps before June 25, to take advantage of the old inclusion rate before it disappears (although because the government has not revealed exactly how the new rate will apply that seems less likely). Of course, if revenue from the tax hike does turn out to be less than anticipated, the government will incur larger budget deficits than planned and plunge us further into debt.

Contrary to Prime Minister Trudeau’s claims, raising capital gains taxes will not improve fairness. It’s bad for investment, the economy and the living standards of Canadians.

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Business

Ottawa should end war on plastics for sake of the environment

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From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

Here’s the shocker: Meng shows that for 15 out of the 16 uses, plastic products incur fewer GHG emissions than their alternatives…

For example, when you swap plastic grocery bags for paper, you get 80 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substituting plastic furniture for wood—50 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substitute plastic-based carpeting with wool—80 per cent higher GHG emissions.

It’s been known for years that efforts to ban plastic products—and encourage people to use alternatives such as paper, metal or glass—can backfire. By banning plastic waste and plastic products, governments lead consumers to switch to substitutes, but those substitutes, mainly bulkier and heavier paper-based products, mean more waste to manage.

Now a new study by Fanran Meng of the University of Sheffield drives the point home—plastic substitutes are not inherently better for the environment. Meng uses comprehensive life-cycle analysis to understand how plastic substitutes increase or decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by assessing the GHG emissions of 16 uses of plastics in five major plastic-using sectors: packaging, building and construction, automotive, textiles and consumer durables. These plastics, according to Meng, account for about 90 per cent of global plastic volume.

Here’s the shocker: Meng shows that for 15 out of the 16 uses, plastic products incur fewer GHG emissions than their alternatives. Read that again. When considering 90 per cent of global plastic use, alternatives to plastic lead to greater GHG emissions than the plastic products they displace. For example, when you swap plastic grocery bags for paper, you get 80 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substituting plastic furniture for wood—50 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substitute plastic-based carpeting with wool—80 per cent higher GHG emissions.

A few substitutions were GHG neutral, such as swapping plastic drinking cups and milk containers with paper alternatives. But overall, in the 13 uses where a plastic product has lower emissions than its non-plastic alternatives, the GHG emission impact is between 10 per cent and 90 per cent lower than the next-best alternatives.

Meng concludes that “Across most applications, simply switching from plastics to currently available non-plastic alternatives is not a viable solution for reducing GHG emissions. Therefore, care should be taken when formulating policies or interventions to reduce plastic demand that they result in the removal of the plastics from use rather than a switch to an alternative material” adding that “applying material substitution strategies to plastics never really makes sense.” Instead, Meng suggests that policies encouraging re-use of plastic products would more effectively reduce GHG emissions associated with plastics, which, globally, are responsible for 4.5 per cent of global emissions.

The Meng study should drive the last nail into the coffin of the war on plastics. This study shows that encouraging substitutes for plastic—a key element of the Trudeau government’s climate plan—will lead to higher GHG emissions than sticking with plastics, making it more difficult to achieve the government’s goal of making Canada a “net-zero” emitter of GHG by 2050.

Clearly, the Trudeau government should end its misguided campaign against plastic products, “single use” or otherwise. According to the evidence, plastic bans and substitution policies not only deprive Canadians of products they value (and in many cases, products that protect human health), they are bad for the environment and bad for the climate. The government should encourage Canadians to reuse their plastic products rather than replace them.

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