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Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
Tel: 902-424-2410Email:

November 20, 2019

Statistics Canada has published the latest Consolidated Government Finance Statistics (CGFS) for 2018 including consolidated results for provincial-territorial plus local governments. Statistics Canada's data allows for comparability across jurisdictions, as well as consistency with the government consumption and investment data reported in macroeconomic accounts.

These data are based on the international government financial statistical standard and, as such, may differ in their presentation from similar concepts reported in Public Accounts and other financial statements. CGFS data differ from reports published by governments due to differences in institutional coverage, accounting rules, timing and integration with the Canadian macroeconomic accounts.

The following analysis compares the per capita results for consolidated provincial-and-local governments. Local governments are consolidated into the analysis because each provincial government may assign different responsibilities to municipal or local governments.  

Revenues and Taxes

Total revenues per capita vary across the country, with Nova Scotia's provincial-local government revenues amounting to $15,364 per capita.  This is slightly lower than the Canadian average of $15,895 per capita.  The highest per capita revenues are in Quebec ($17,806), where the government offers a different mix of public services, including delivering some services that are otherwise delivered by the Federal government (the value of the Quebec abatement to Federal taxes was $618 per capita and is included in revenue figures presented here).  The lowest per capita revenues are in Ontario ($14,817).

Although Nova Scotia's provincial-local government revenues are similar to the national per capita average, this makes up a larger portion of the province's relatively small GDP per capita.

Taxes are the largest source of consolidated provincial-local government revenues, amounting to $9,730 per capita across Canada.  Nova Scotia's tax revenues are over $1,700 per capita lower than the national average at $8,027 per capita.  The highest provincial-local tax revenues are in Quebec (before the $618/capita Quebec abatement of Federal taxes). 

Beyond taxes and user fees, consolidated provincial-local governments generate revenues from workers compensation premiums, fiscal transfer payments, interest/dividend income, royalties and sales of goods/services.  Those provinces that are Equalization recipients report higher fiscal transfer revenues per capita, particularly in the Maritimes and Manitoba.  Provinces with substantial oil and gas sectors (and to a lesser extent hydroelectricity and forestry) report stronger royalty income.  Saskatchewan and Quebec also report substantially higher revenues from other sources, though this may include specific items that cannot be classified with others.  In Statistics Canada's data, consolidated revenue from sales of goods and services includes tuition fees.

Tax revenues break down into 8 major categories, including personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, general sales taxes, excise taxes/profits of fiscal monopolies, payroll taxes, property taxes, user fees and other taxes.  The amount of revenues generated by these taxes reflects both the tax system itself (tax rates, deductions, credits, number of taxes levied) as well as overall economic conditions. 

There are also differences in specific taxes across Canada. Alberta has no general sales tax.  Alberta relies more on property taxes and user fees for revenues than in most other provinces.  Only Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba levy payroll taxes.  Corporate income taxes per capita are higher in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and Saskatchewan.  User fee revenues per capita are notably higher Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. 

Over the last 10 years, there have been clearly distinct patterns of revenue growth between resource-producing provinces and other provinces.  Resource-producers (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador) all generated substantially higher revenues when oil prices were high, but these revenues became volatile after oil prices started to fall in 2014.  Despite this volatility, all three major resource producing provinces report higher consolidated provincial-local government revenues per capita than the national average.  

In contrast, consolidated provincial-local revenue growth for non-resource intensive provinces has been steadier.  


Consolidated provincial-local government expenditures in Canada were $15,859 per capita.  Nova Scotia's consolidated provincial-local government expenditures were slightly lower at $15,614 per capita.  The highest expenditures were in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Saskatchewan while the lowest were in Ontario, Prince Edward Island  and British Columbia. 

As with consolidated provincial-local government revenues, modest differences in per capita expenditures appear larger when measured relative to GDP per capita, which remains substantially larger in resource-producing provinces.

Employee compensation is the largest component of consolidated provincial-local expenditures, amounting to $5,882 per capita.  The highest employee compensation expenditures per capita are found in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Alberta.  The lowest are reported in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.  Nova Scotia's per capita employee compensation expenditures were $6,312.   

Purchases of goods and services was the next largest expenditure category with an average provincial-local government expenditure of $4,108 per capita.  Expenditures on goods and services were highest in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador and lowest in Quebec.

Interest expenses depend on net financial liabilities and costs of funds.  Across Canada, provincial-local expenditures on interest payments averaged $1,028 per capita while interest costs were $997 per capita in Nova Scotia.  The highest interest expenditures were in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba.  The lowest interest expenditures were in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta.

Subsidies (particularly in agriculture) are uneven across the country, with the highest payments in Quebec and Prince Edward Island.  The lowest subsidies were paid in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.

Social assistance and family/employment benefit expenditures per capita were $1,390 per capita across Canada, including notably higher expenditures in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.  Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia ($831 per capita) reported the lowest social benefit expenditures.

Over the last ten years, per capita consolidated provincial-local government expenditures have been higher (and more volatile) in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.  Outside of resource-producing provinces, expenditures were higher in Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick.  Nova Scotia's expenditures were similar to the national average while expenditures were generally below average in Ontario, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island. 


Net Operating Balance

The net operating balance of the consolidated provincial-local government sector reflects the difference between revenues and expenses.  As this includes local governments, colleges, universities, workers' compensation boards and other entities, it is not comparable to statements of surplus or deficit for Provincial governments as reported in their respective Public Accounts. 

Three Provinces reported consolidated provincial-local governments with a positive net operating balance in 2018: British Columbia (+$1,210), Quebec (+$1,164) and Prince Edward Island (+$300).  Nova Scotia's consolidated provincial-local government sector reported a net operating balance of -$250 per capita in 2018.  The largest net operating deficits were reported in Alberta (-$2,064) and Newfoundland and Labrador (-$2,298).  The consolidated provincial-local government sector reported a surplus of $36/capita across Canada.

Prior to a decline in 2018, Nova Scotia's operating had improved over the previous four years.  National consolidated provincial-local government net operating balances have been improving steadily since 2010.  Much of the national improvement is attributable to Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.  Net operating balances have also improved in the Maritimes.  Resource-producing provinces and Manitoba report the largest negative net operating balances in their consolidated provincial-local governments and these have deteriorated over the last ten years. 

Net Financial Worth

As with net operating balance, the net financial worth of the consolidated provincial-local government sector includes different entities and accounting treatments than reported by Provincial governments in Public Accounts. 

All provinces report negative net financial worth of consolidated provincial-local governments, with an average of -$14,355 per capita across Canada.  The three westernmost provinces have the smallest negative net financial worth, followed by Nova Scotia at -$12,382 per capita.  The highest negative net financial worth is reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Ontario.

Net financial worth of consolidated provincial-local governments improved in the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia after 2014.  However, net financial worth deteriorated after 2014 for resource producing provinces as well as for Manitoba. 

Statistics Canada. Table  10-10-0147-01   Canadian government finance statistics (CGFS), statement of operations and balance sheet for consolidated governments (x 1,000,000)Table  17-10-0009-01   Population estimates, quarterly; Table  36-10-0222-01   Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, provincial and territorial, annual (x 1,000,000)


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