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National

Federal debt interest will consume nearly one quarter of income tax revenue in 2024

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From the Fraser Institute

By Grady Munro and Jake Fuss

The Trudeau government will table its next budget on April 16. In recent years, the government has overseen a substantial rise in the amount of interest it must pay to service federal debt, reversing a long-standing trend of interest costs declining relative to personal income tax revenues. By 2024/25, according to projections, nearly one in four dollars of personal income tax revenue will go towards debt interest.

Just like how individuals must pay interest when they take out a mortgage, the government must also pay interest when it borrows money. These interest payments represent taxpayer dollars that don’t go towards programs or services for Canadians.

When interest costs rise faster than the government’s ability to pay—i.e. the revenues it brings in—the government will face pressure to take on more debt to maintain funding for programs and services. And by taking on more debt, this places additional upward pressure on interest costs (all else equal) and the cycle repeats.

A useful way to track this is to measure debt interest costs as a share of federal personal income tax (PIT) revenues, which represent Ottawa’s single-most important revenue source. In 2024/25, they’re expected to comprise just under half (46.4 per cent) of total revenues and therefore provide a useful gauge of the government’s ability to pay interest on its debt. As such, the chart below includes projections for federal debt interest costs as a share of PIT revenues for the two decades from 2004/05 to 2024/25.

Chart

As we can see from the chart, for many years federal debt interest costs had been declining as a share of Personal Income Tax revenues. In 2004/05, 34.6 per cent of PIT revenues went towards servicing federal debt, but by 2015/16 that share had fallen to 15.1 per cent. In other words, during the Trudeau government’s first year in office, federal interest costs consumed less than one in six dollars of personal income tax revenue paid by Canadians. Interest costs as a share of PIT revenues continued to fall for the next several years, down to a low of 11.7 per cent in 2020/21. However, this marked the end of the decline, and the years since have seen rapid growth in debt interest costs that far exceeds growth in PIT revenues.

In the two years from 2020/21 to 2022/23, federal interest payments rose from 11.7 per cent of PIT revenues to 16.8 per cent. And by the end of the upcoming fiscal year in 2024/25, debt interest payments will reach a projected 23.4 per cent of PIT revenues. In four years, debt interest payments are expected to have gone from consuming about one in nine dollars of PIT revenue to nearly one in four dollars. Put differently, nearly one quarter of the money taxpayers send to Ottawa in the form of personal income taxes will not go towards any programs or services in 2024/25.

The causes of this sudden rise in interest costs as a share of PIT revenues are the combined effects of a substantial accumulation of debt under the Trudeau government, and a recent rise in interest rates. From 2015/16 to 2022/23, the Trudeau government added $820.7 billion in gross federal debt, and by 2024/25 total debt will reach a projected $2.1 trillion—roughly double the amount inherited by the current government. Meanwhile, from 2022 to 2023, the Bank of Canada increased its policy interest rate from a low of 0.25 per cent to the current rate of 5.00 per cent.

Simply put, federal debt interest costs have risen and are expected to eat up almost one quarter of federal PIT revenues by 2024/25. To help prevent taxpayers from devoting an even larger share of their tax dollars towards debt interest, the Trudeau government should cease its heavy reliance on borrowing in this year’s federal budget.

Economy

Canadians experiencing second-longest and third steepest decline in living standards in last 40 years

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From the Fraser Institute

From 2019 to 2023, Canadian living standards declined—and as of the end of 2023, the decline had not yet ended, finds a new study published today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Despite claims to the contrary, living standards are declining in Canada,” said Grady Munro, policy analyst at the Fraser Institute and co-author of Changes in Per-Person GDP (Income): 1985 to 2023.

Specifically, from April 2019 to the end of 2023, inflation-adjusted per-person GDP, a broad measure of living standards, declined from $59,905 to $58,111 or by 3.0 per cent. This decline is exceeded only by the decline in 1989 to 1992 (-5.3 per cent) and 2008 to 2009 (-5.2 per cent). In other words, it’s the third-steepest decline in 40 years.

Moreover, the latest decline (which comprises 18 fiscal quarters) is already the second-longest in the last 40 years, surpassed only by the decline from 1989 to 1994 (which lasted 21 quarters). And if not stabilized in 2024, this decline could be the steepest and longest in four decades.

“The severity of the decline in living standards should be a wake-up call for policymakers across Canada to immediately enact fundamental policy reforms to help spur economic growth and productivity,” said Jason Clemens, study co-author and executive vice-president at the Fraser Institute.

  • Real GDP per person is a broad measure of incomes (and consequently living standards). This paper analyzes changes in quarterly per-person GDP, adjusted for inflation from 1985 through to the end of 2023, the most recent data available at the time of writing.
  • The study assesses the length (number of quarters) as well the percentage decline and the length of time required to recover the income lost during the decline.
  • Over the period covered (1985 to 2023), Canada experienced nine periods of decline and recovery in real GDP per person.
  • Of those nine periods, three (Q2 1989 to Q3 1994, Q3 2008 to Q4 2011, and Q2 2019 to Q2 2022) were most severe when comparing the length and depth of the declines along with number of quarters required for real GDP per person to recover.
  • The experience following Q2 2019 is unlike any decline and recovery since 1985 because, though per person GDP recovered for one quarter in Q2 2022, it immediately began declining again and by Q4 2023 remains below the level in Q2 2019.
  • This lack of meaningful recovery suggests that since mid-2019, Canada has experienced one of the longest and deepest declines in real GDP per person since 1985, exceeded only by the decline and recovery from Q2 1989 to Q3 1994.
  • If per-capita GDP does not recover in 2024, this period may be the longest and largest decline in per-person GDP over the last four decades.

Adobe PDF Read the Full Report

 

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Economy

Feds spend $3 million to fly 182 politicians and bureaucrats to climate conference

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Ryan Thorpe 

Feds trip to COP28 in Dubai cost $3 million

The cost for Canada to send hundreds of people to COP28 in Dubai has doubled, rising to nearly $3 million, according to government records obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Included in those costs is $1.3 million the federal government dished out to host a “Canada Pavilion” at the summit, which featured a rapper performing a song on “climate disinformation,” while giving a shoutout to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

“Nothing screams fighting climate change like flying around the world burning through jet fuel and millions of tax dollars,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “Here’s a crazy idea: maybe the feds don’t need to spend $3 million flying 182 politicians and bureaucrats to Dubai.”

The federal government paid for at least 182 people to go to COP28, held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A previous report from the National Post pegged the cost for Canada’s delegation at $1.4 million.

But the bill now sits at $2,954,188, including $825,466 for transportation, $472,570 for accommodations and $295,455 for meals and incidentals, according to the records.

The records indicate the cost could rise even higher, as certain invoices and travel claims “have yet to be processed.”

Costs included $1.3 million for a “Canada Pavilion” to “showcase the breadth of Canadian climate leadership.”

At the Canada Pavilion, a Canadian rapper known as Baba Brinkman – the son of Liberal MP Joyce Murray – performed a rap on “climate disinformation.”

“Climate disinformation, get that immunization, the vaccine for bad meme infiltration,” Brinkman rapped. “Climate misinformation, it leads to polarization, which leads to radical conspiracy ideation.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault also received a shoutout during Brinkman’s rap.

“Really? Hosting a rapper half-way around the world to drop rhymes at a government podium will help the environment?” Terrazzano said.

The records were released in response to an order paper question from Conservative MP Dan Mazier (Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa).

Most of the hotel expenses came from the Dubai Marriott and the Premier Inn at the Dubai Investment Park, with rooms coming in between $150 and $400 per night.

The most expensive digs was a $816-per-night suite at the Pullman Dubai Jumeriah Lakes Towers, a “five-star hotel offering upscale accommodations.”

The Canadian delegation also handed out $650 worth of gifts during the trip.

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