Fraser Institute News Release: Just 5 spending categories out of 34 account for more than 60% of total increase in federal spending since 2015

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, June 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Of 34 federal government departments, programs and agencies, just five—covering Indigenous affairs, child benefits, seniors’ benefits, Canada Health Transfer and defence—account for nearly two-thirds of the total increase in spending since 2015, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Understanding where the federal government has increased spending is an important step in developing a plan back to sustainable finances,” said Jason Clemens, executive vice-president of the Fraser Institute and co-author of Explaining the Growth in Federal Program Spending since 2015.

The study finds that from 2015 to 2019, federal government program spending increased by $69.1 billion—or 27.2 per cent—to $322.9 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the increase is still sizable at $50.2 billion, or 18.4 per cent.

The five spending areas that accounted for 63.8 per cent of all federal spending increases are: Indigenous and Northern Affairs, now Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and Indigenous Services Canada (15.4 per cent), Children’s Benefits including the Canada Child Benefit or CCB (13.9 per cent), Seniors Benefits including Old Age Security (13.4 per cent), National Defence (11.8 per cent) and the Canada Health Transfer (9.3 per cent).

Crucially, the two areas of federal spending that comprise the bulk of the increase (Indigenous affairs and the Canada Child Benefit—a monthly payment to eligible families) are discretionary, meaning the government chose to increase spending in those areas. Conversely, benefits for seniors are increasing automatically as Canada’s population ages, and health transfers to the provinces also increase automatically.

“For Canadians to assess the performance of government and the value of their tax dollars, it’s important for us to understand exactly where the money is being spent,” said study co-author Tegan Hill, a Fraser Institute economist.

Jason Clemens, Executive Vice-President
Fraser Institute

Tegan Hill, Economist
Fraser Institute

To arrange media interviews or for more information, please contact:
Bryn Weese, Fraser Institute
604-688-0221 ext. 589

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit