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Statistics -> Government of Canada Debt

Government of Canada Debt in Selected Years

The Canadian debt is confusing, because several different numbers are reported.  As of March 31, 2015, which is the financial year end for the Government of Canada, here are the various numbers, in $millions:

Total interest-bearing debt $899,986
Add accounts payable and accrued liabilities 123,631
Federal gross debt 1,023,617
Less financial assets  -336,658
Net debt 686,959
Less non-financial assets   74,629
Federal debt (accumulated deficit) used by the CTF debt clock   $612,330

The total government gross debt is reported in the table below.  Most organizations focus on the Federal Debt (accumulated deficit), which is a much lower total than the gross government debt.

Note that full accrual accounting was introduced in the fiscal year ending March 31, 1984.  This made the data from 1984 onward not directly comparable with earlier years.  The Gross Debt in earlier years would have been higher using full accrual accounting.

When the debt includes all levels of government, Canada's total gross government debt in 2011 was 84% of GDP, or $1.4 trillion.  See our article on Debt in Selected Countries for the significance of this number.

Year
Ending
Mar 31
Federal
Gross Debt
$billions
Debt as
% of
GDP
Population
millions
Debt per
person
$
Party in Power
1967 $28.4 43.8% 20.0 $1,419 Liberal - Apr 22/63 to Jun 3/79
1971 38.0 42.2% 21.6 1,764  
1976 61.0 35.1% 23.5 2,600  
1979 81.5 36.9% 24.0 3,397  
1980 99.2 40.5% 24.2 4,100 Progressive Conservative - Jun 4/79 to Mar 2/80
1981 123.6 39.3% 24.8 4,978 Liberal - Mar 3/80 to Sep 16/84
1983 170.9 45.0% 25.4 6,728  
Full accrual accounting first used in fiscal year ending March 31, 1984
1984 245.0 59.5% 25.6 9,569  
1985 284.5 63.3% 25.8 11,026 Progressive Conservative - Sep 17/84 to Nov 3/93
1986 319.4 65.8% 26.1 12,236  
1991 487.7 71.7% 28.0 17,397  
1992 524.2 76.5% 28.4 18,459  
1993 563.2 80.4% 28.7 19,623  
1994 607.3 83.5% 29.0 20,940 Liberal - Nov 4/93 to Feb 5/06
1996 691.3 85.3% 29.7 23,297  
2001 713.6 66.3% 31.0 23,004  
2002 703.0 63.4% 31.4 22,408  
2003 699.0 60.6% 31.7 22,073  
2004 700.1 57.7% 32.0 21,895  
2005 705.0 54.6% 32.2 21,863  
2006 702.5 51.1% 32.6 21,565 Conservative - Feb 6/06 to present
2007 705.8 48.7% 32.9 21,432  
2008 692.3 45.3% 33.3 20,781  
2009 824.2 51.4% 33.6 24,529  
2010 883.3 56.4% 34.0 25,980  
2011 920.9 55.4% 34.3 26,848  
2012 969.1 55.1% 34.8 27,848  
2013 1,016.1 55.5% 35.2 28,868  
2014 1,001.7 52.9% 35.5 28,218  
2015 1,023.6 51.8% 35.9 28,513  

The Federal government paid $26.6 billion in interest expense for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015.  The interest expense for each year can be found in the Department of Finance Fiscal Reference Tables 2015, Table 7 Expenses (Public Debt Charges).

The Federal Gross Debt above is as reported in the Department of Finance Fiscal Reference Tables 2015, Table 15 Gross and Net Debt.  These amounts are as at March 31st of each year.  See also the Department of Finance report Federal Debt - Table 8 Outstanding Debt at Year-End.

The % of GDP is based on the GDP at Market Prices (Statistics Canada V498074) for the prior calendar year.  For instance, the 2015 % of GDP is based on the 2014 GDP.  The amounts for the GDP are obtained from Statistics Canada table for Gross Domestic Product, Income-Based.

The population figures, which are as of July 31 of each year, are obtained from Statistics Canada Population by Year, by Province and Territory.

The party in power is from the Parliament of Canada website.

There is a wealth of information available on the Department of Finance website, including Fiscal Reference Tables where you can see not only Federal information, but also information such as the public accounts (net debt) of the provincial and territorial governments.

In 2011, the Canadian federal government committed to making their government more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens, through participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

See also:

Canada's National Debt Clock which shows federal debt (accumulated deficit), not gross debt, from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Tax Tip:  Reduce your own debt, and pressure your government to reduce its debt.

 

Revised: October 13, 2015

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