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Cost of federal government debt rising for Canadians

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4 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Ben Eisen and Jake Fuss

As the federal deficit persists and government debt mounts, the burden of debt interest costs is growing for Canadian taxpayers.

The Trudeau government is on track for another large budget deficit forecasted at $40.0 billion, slightly larger than the $35.3 billion deficit last year. The government’s long-term forecast suggests deficits will continue throughout the projection period, which ends in 2028/29.

There’s nothing new about the federal books being splashed with red ink. The Trudeau government has run significant deficits every year of its tenure. What’s different this time, however, is that due to higher interest rates the cost of the government’s borrowing is much higher. As a result, debt costs are set to increase significantly in the years ahead, which will burden taxpayers today and in the future while also making it harder for future prime ministers and finance ministers to balance their books.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the numbers. When the Trudeau government took power during fiscal year 2015/16, debt interest costs were $21.8 billion. In 2021/22, despite a long string of deficits and huge increase in debt, low interest rates during the period of intensive borrowing prevented a surge in debt interest costs, which stood at $24.5 billion.

But last fiscal year marked the start of a new chapter in Canada’s fiscal history as higher interest rates combined with significant debt accumulation caused debt interest costs to rise substantially, from $24.5 billion to $35.0 billion. Another similar increase is expected this year, with debt costs forecasted to rise to $46.5 billion—a 90 per cent increase in just two years with a further projected increase to $52.4 billion for next year.

This sudden increase in debt interest costs has important and immediate implications for federal finances. In 2021/22, 5.9 per cent of all federal revenue was spent on paying the interest on federal debt. By next year, according to Trudeau government forecasts, this will rise to 10.8 per cent.

Canadian history shows us how debt interest costs can quickly spiral out of control. During the debt crisis of the early 1990s, after many years of continuous deficits, debt interest costs were consuming one-third of every dollar Ottawa collected. Today’s debt interest costs are not as high as they were in the 1990s, but there’s no reason to wait until a crisis develops to take action.

The fact that debt interest is taking a bigger bite out of federal revenue should not just be a matter of academic concern for public finance economists. It affects all Canadian taxpayers. A larger share of the money collected from individuals and businesses being spent on debt leaves less for other priorities such as tax relief, which can help encourage economic growth, or core public services that Canadians value.

The Trudeau government has often spoken about the benefits of fiscal restraint but has thus far failed to exercise much of it. If the prime minister and his cabinet want to halt the growth in debt interest they must reverse the free spending that has characterized their time in government to slow the accumulation of debt.

Business

Musk: X to sue groups that conspire to boycott conservative news sites

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From The Center Square

“That system guarantees that advertising dollars flow only to left-leaning media brands.”

Tesla founder and X owner Elon Musk said Thursday he plans to file a lawsuit against a collaboration of people and organizations that work to prevent advertising dollars from going to conservative news media brands.

Musk announced his intention on X while sharing video of Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro’s Congressional testimony on the topic from Wednesday.

“Having seen the evidence unearthed today by Congress, 𝕏 has no choice but to file suit against the perpetrators and collaborators in the advertising boycott racket,” Musk wrote. “Hopefully, some states will consider criminal prosecution.”

At Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Collusion in the Global Alliance for Responsible Media,” Shapiro told lawmakers that legacy media and their political allies conspire with online advertising gatekeepers to paint conservative news organizations as “dangerous,” limiting their opportunity to receive advertising revenue.

“There is in fact an internal pressure system created by Democratic legislators, this White House, legacy media, advertisers and pseudo-objective brand safety organizations,” Shapiro testified. “That system guarantees that advertising dollars flow only to left-leaning media brands.”

Shapiro identified the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) as one of those gatekeepers of online advertising revenue.

“In reality, GARM acts as a cartel. Its members account for 90% of ad spending in the United States, almost a trillion dollars,” he testified. “In other words, if you’re not getting ad dollars from GARM members, it’s nearly impossible to run an ad-based business. And if you’re not following their preferred political narratives … you will not be deemed brand safe. Your business will be throttled.”

​Dan McCaleb is the executive editor of The Center Square. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at [email protected].

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Artificial Intelligence

Elon Musk is building the ‘most powerful Artificial Intelligence training cluster in the world’

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News release from The Deep View

Elon Musk’s xAI has ended talks with Oracle to rent more specialized Nvidia chips — in what could have been a $10 billion deal — according to The Information.
Musk is instead buying the chips himself, all to begin putting together his planned “gigafactory of compute.”
The details: Musk confirmed in a post on Twitter that xAI is now working to build the “gigafactory” internally.
  • Musk explained that the reason behind the shift is “that our fundamental competitiveness depends on being faster than any other AI company. This is the only way to catch up.”
  • “xAI is building the 100k H100 system itself for fastest time to completion,” he said. “Aiming to begin training later this month. It will be the most powerful training cluster in the world by a large margin.”
xAI isn’t the only one trying to build a supercomputer; Microsoft and OpenAI, also according to The Information, have been working on plans for a $100 billion supercomputer nicknamed “Stargate.”
Why it matters: The industry is keen to pour more and more resources into the generation of abstractly more powerful AI models, and VC investments into AI companies, as we noted yesterday, are growing.
But at the same time, concerns about revenue and return on investment are growing as well, with a growing number of analysts gaining confidence in the idea that we are in a bubble of high costs and low returns, something that could be compounded by multi-billion-dollar supercomputers.
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