Connect with us

Fraser Institute

Federal government should have taken own advice about debt accumulation

Published

5 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

Authors: Grady Munro Jake Fuss

In 2024/25 the federal government now expects to pay $54.1 billion in debt interest, or $1,331 per Canadian, which is $2.0 billion more than it plans to spend on health care transfers to provinces.

In the foreword of the Trudeau government’s recent budget, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland declared that, “it would be irresponsible and unfair to pass on more debt to the next generations.” Minister Freeland is absolutely right—if only she had listened to her own advice.

Fairness was the purported theme of this federal budget and nearly every new policy is presented as something that will help make life fairer for Canadians—especially younger generations. But the glaring contradiction is that partly due to all of the new spending on these policies, the Trudeau government is doing the very thing it admits is “unfair” and saddling future generations with hundreds of billions in added debt.

By 2027/28, the Trudeau government plans to add $395.6 billion to the total (gross) amount of debt held federally, which is $180.0 billion more than it planned to add just last spring. Overall, gross debt is projected to increase by nearly 20 per cent over the next four years. Adjusting for population growth and inflation during this period, by the end of 2027/28 every Canadian will be responsible for $2,301 more in gross federal debt than they are currently.

Much of this added debt stems from the introduction of new programs, which have caused federal program spending (total spending minus debt interest) over the next four years to be an expected $77.2 billion higher than was forecasted last spring. And though the Trudeau government will increase capital gains taxes to try and pay for this new spending, much of the new spending will still be financed through borrowing. Indeed, combined deficits from 2024/25 to 2027/28 are $44.7 billion higher than forecasted in last year’s budget, and there is no balanced budget in sight at all.

The problem with accumulating substantial amounts of debt, and why Minister Freeland is right when she asserts that it’s “irresponsible and unfair,” is that a growing government debt burden imposes costs on Canadians now and in the future.

One of the most important consequences of government debt are debt interest payments. These interest payments represent taxpayer dollars that don’t go towards any programs or services for Canadians, and have grown to impose a significant burden on federal finances. Specifically, in 2024/25 the federal government now expects to pay $54.1 billion in debt interest, or $1,331 per Canadian, which is $2.0 billion more than it plans to spend on health care transfers to provinces.

While debt interest costs represent a more immediate impact, debt accumulated today must also ultimately be paid for by future generations, again in the form of higher taxes. In fact, research suggests that this effect may be disproportionate, with one dollar borrowed today needing to be paid back by more than one dollar in future taxes.

One study estimates that Canadians aged 16 can expect to pay the equivalent of $29,663 over their lifetime in additional personal income taxes as a consequence of rising federal debt. Older age groups shoulder a much smaller burden in comparison. A 65-year-old can expect to pay $2,433 over their lifetime in additional personal income taxes due to rising federal debt.

The outsized burden of federal debt borne by younger generations of Canadians is hardly what any reasonable person would consider “fair.”

For all its talk about fairness and helping the next generation of Canadians, the Trudeau government’s incessant spending and substantial debt accumulation will simply result in young Canadians paying disproportionately higher taxes in the future. Does that seem fair to you?

Todayville is a digital media and technology company. We profile unique stories and events in our community. Register and promote your community event for free.

Follow Author

Business

Capital gains tax hike will cause widespread damage in Canadian economy

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Jake Fuss and Grady Munro

According to an analysis by economist Jack Mintz, 50 per cent of taxpayers who claim more than $250,000 of capital gains in a year earned less than $117,592 in normal annual income from 2011 to 2021. These include individuals with modest annual incomes who own businesses, second homes or stocks, and who may choose to sell those assets once or infrequently in their lifetimes (such as at retirement)

On Monday, two months after tabling the federal budget, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced a motion in Parliament to increase taxes on capital gains. On Tuesday, the motion passed as the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party voted with the Liberals. Unfortunately for Canadians, the tax hike will likely hurt Canada’s economy. And the finance minister continues to make misleading claims to defend it.

Currently, investors who sell capital assets pay taxes on 50 per cent of the gain (based on their highest marginal tax rate). On June 25, thanks to Freeland’s motion, that share will increase to 66.7 per cent for capital gains above $250,000. (Critically, the gain includes inflationary and real increases in the value of the asset.)

According to Minister Freeland, the hike is necessary because it will bring in more than $19 billion of revenue over five years to pay for new spending on housing, national defence and other programs. This claim is disingenuous for two reasons.

First, investors do not pay capital gains taxes until they sell assets and realize gains. A higher capital gains tax rate gives them an incentive to hold onto their investments, perhaps anticipating that a future government may reduce the rate. Individuals and businesses may not sell their assets as quickly as the government anticipates so the tax hike ends up generating less revenue than expected.

Second, the government does not have a revenue problem. Annual federal revenue is increasing and has grown (nominally) more than $185 billion (or 66.2 per cent) from 2014-15 to 2023-24. Before tabling the budget in April, the government was already anticipating annual revenue to increase by more than $27 billion this year. But the government has chosen to spend every dime it takes in (and then some) instead of being disciplined.

Years of unrestrained spending and borrowing have led to a precarious fiscal situation in Ottawa. If the government wanted to pay for new programs, it could’ve reduced spending in other areas. But Minister Freeland largely chose not to do this and sought new revenue tools after realizing this year’s deficit was on track to surpass her fiscal targets. Clearly, raising taxes to generate revenue was unnecessary and could’ve been avoided with more disciplined spending.

Further misleading Canadians, the Trudeau government claims this tax hike will only increase taxes for “0.13 per cent of Canadians.” But in reality, many Canadians earning modest incomes will pay capital gains taxes.

According to an analysis by economist Jack Mintz, 50 per cent of taxpayers who claim more than $250,000 of capital gains in a year earned less than $117,592 in normal annual income from 2011 to 2021. These include individuals with modest annual incomes who own businesses, second homes or stocks, and who may choose to sell those assets once or infrequently in their lifetimes (such as at retirement). Contrary to the government’s claims, the capital gains tax hike will affect 4.74 million investors in Canadian companies (or 15.8 per cent of all tax filers).

In sum, many Canadians who you wouldn’t consider among “the wealthiest” will earn capital gains exceeding $250,000 following the sale of their assets, and be impacted by Freeland’s hike.

Finally, the capital gains tax hike will also inhibit economic growth during a time when Canadians are seeing a historic decline in living standards. Capital gains taxes discourage entrepreneurship and business investment. By raising capital gains taxes the Trudeau government is reducing the return that entrepreneurs and investors can expect from starting a business or investing in the Canadian economy. This means that potential entrepreneurs or investors are more likely to take their ideas and money elsewhere, and Canadians will continue to suffer the consequences of a stagnating economy.

If Minister Freeland and the Trudeau government want to pave a path to widespread prosperity for Canadians, they should reverse their tax hike on capital gains.

Continue Reading

Energy

Natural resources remain backbone of Canada’s trade and prosperity

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Jock Finlayson and Elmira Aliakbari

It’s hard to overstate the importance of energy to our economy. In its latest “scorecard” report, the Coalition for a Better Future notes that “over the past decade, Canada recorded a cumulative trade gap of $130 billion. Had it not been for energy, our trade gap would have been about $1 trillion.” By any measure, the energy sector punches above its weight when paying Canada’s bills.

Canada is a mid-sized economy accounting for roughly 2 per cent of global production. Within North America, we represent less than one-tenth of the collective output of the three national economies. Canada is also an “open” economy that relies on cross-border flows of trade, investment and knowledge to sustain our high living standards.

To pay our way in an unforgiving and very competitive world, Canada must produce and sell exports to customers in other markets. Among other benefits, these exports furnish the financial means to pay for the vast array of imports that enhance the wellbeing of Canadian households and allow many of our businesses to operate efficiently and grow.

In 2022, Canada exported $779 billion of goods to other countries, and $161 billion of services, for a total of $940 billion. About three-quarters of Canada’s exports are destined for a single market—the United States. Canada also sources the bulk of imports from the U.S.

A hard truth about Canada’s trade is the outsized role of natural resource-based products in the export mix. Added together, energy, non-metallic minerals (and related products), metal ores, forest products and agri-food (i.e. food produced from agriculture) comprise roughly half of Canada’s international exports of goods and services—a notably larger share than in other countries with advanced economies (apart from Australia and New Zealand).

Energy alone accounted for 27 per cent of Canada’s merchandise exports in 2022, generating $212 billion for Canadian businesses, workers and governments. Mining contributed $85 billion in export revenues, followed by forest products ($60 billion) and agri-food ($57 billion).

Within the broad energy basket, oil and oil-based products dominate, accounting for more than three-quarters of all energy-based export revenues. Despite innumerable speeches and press releases issued by the federal government, energy’s contribution to Canada’s exports is poised to increase in the next few years—due not to growing exports of “clean tech” goods, carbon-free electricity or hydrogen, but to pending liquefied natural gas (LNG) production in British Columbia coupled with rising volumes of Western Canadian oil shipments following the completion of pipeline expansion projects.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of energy to our economy. In its latest “scorecard” report, the Coalition for a Better Future notes that “over the past decade, Canada recorded a cumulative trade gap of $130 billion. Had it not been for energy, our trade gap would have been about $1 trillion.” By any measure, the energy sector punches above its weight when paying Canada’s bills. The same is true, albeit to a lesser extent, for the other major resource sectors.

Many Canadians, huddled in increasingly unaffordable urban communities that have few evident connections to the country’s natural resource economy, may be puzzled by the continued vital importance of resource extraction and processing to Canada’s prosperity.

Ultimately, any trading country has a ledger showing the trade surpluses and trade deficits of its industry sectors. In Canada’s case, a handful of sectors generate significant trade surpluses, which help finance the large trade deficits incurred in other parts of the economy.

The story is a simple one—positive trade balances in the energy, mining, forestry and agri-food sectors offset chronic—and in some cases fast-growing—trade deficits in consumer goods, chemicals and plastics, motor vehicles/parts, and industrial and electronic goods. Canada also runs a smallish deficit in our overall services trade.

The sectoral trade data are informative. Among other things, they tell us where Canada has a “comparative advantage” in the global context. For a market economy, a pattern of positive trade balances is evidence that it has a comparative advantage in industries that reliably report trade surpluses.

Armed with such information, smart policymakers should create and sustain a business and investment climate that champions and bolsters the commercial success of industries that underpin the export economy. This is a message the Trudeau government has had trouble digesting, perhaps because it relies heavily on the votes of a few large metropolitan areas while most rural and resource-dependent regions remain a political afterthought.

Continue Reading

Trending

X