Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could soon enter the Canadian Government Spending Hall of Shame.
His Liberal government is close to breaking the record for Canadian per-capita government spending, according to a new report from the Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank. The Liberals plan to spend $8,337 per person in 2017.
The record is currently held by — ironically — the previous Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who consistently campaigned as a fiscal conservative budget balancer. Harper’s administration attained the high water mark of $8,375 per per person in 2009 as he poured money into infrastructure projects to offset the financial crunch of the global recession that year.
But Trudeau is likely to raise the bar even higher. Trudeau’s spending estimates for the fiscal year are based on no increases in defense spending. But he is under increasing pressure to fund Canada’s military as many analysts are predicting not just a short-term funding crisis but a virtual implosion.
What makes Trudeau’s rising levels of government spending ominous is that Trudeau is not at war with a faltering economy or a foreign power.
“Prime Minister Trudeau’s historically high level of spending comes in the absence of a recession or war,” states the Fraser Institute,
The institute’s report concentrates only on what successive federal governments have spent on taxpayer-funded programs, suggesting that to include what it costs to service the national debt would skew the results in favor of a government that inherited less red ink than another.
The report makes for fascinating reading as it describes how government has grown from a mimimalist state that spent a few hundred dollars on each citizen every year in the late nineteenth century to a gargantuan institution with an insatiable appetite for taxpayers dollars.
Interestingly, over the last century, there has been little difference between Liberal and Conservative governments. In the modern era, the most fiscally conservative regime was that of Liberal Jean Chrétien, who was forced to drastically cut government spending as a result of demands from the International Monetary Fund.
Chretien reduced per-capita spending to $5,500.
Trudeau’s last budget predicted more debt on the horizon — about $120 billion more by 2022. But that figure did not even consider the cost of proceeding with several major capital acquisition projects for the Canadian Armed Forces. Some of that funding has been deferred for up to 25 years but it is increasingly unlikely that the Canadian military will be able to function without a huge infusion of capital.
So Trudeau may well be headed for the record books.