Take a look at how the federal government’s revenues and spending patterns have changed over time—we’ve got the data going all the way back to 1938. And check out what your share of the debt burden adds up to, as well as which prime ministers presided over federal budget deficits or surpluses.


  1. This is really nicely done Macleans.

  2. Do you realize that, at a glance, it looks as if someone took an ax to Trudeau’s head? Could this have been planned a little better?

  3. Also, that Stephen Harper looks as if he is undergoing the Chinese Water Torture?

    • Given his approach to Chinese control of our resources, there has to be some sort of cosmic irony here.

  4. A small suggestion: the key on the chart should be flipped so that it matches the colour order of the chart, which presently is difficult to read, especially since some of the colours are very similar.

  5. That huge deficit under King was caused by World War 2, right? I like how most of the surplus is under Liberal leadership. I just can’t stand Conservatives and their zealotry.

    • Such tolerance is typical of the left who live with hatred in their hearts for anyone who dares to disagree with them.

      • Nicely done Lewdavelewis – respond to intolerant generalization with an even more intolerant generalization.  Personally, I can’t stand centrists – they’re all axe murderers.

    • So are most deficit years – the Liberals have been in power more often. The Liberals were in power for 78.9% of surplus years and 67.9% of deficit years. Moreover, the Tories this is mostly an artifact of the fact that Tories have governed through most of the major recessions in Canadian history (the Tories tend to take office when the business cycle is at its peak and people get greedy).

    • More of the surplus would be under Conservative leadership if they weren’t stuck paying the interest on debts accumulated during Liberal governments.  See all that blue “deficit” under Mulroney?  The Mulroney governments actually took in more revenue than they paid out in operating expenses over the course of their two terms – a net surplus – and all the “blue ink” is just the cost of prior accumulated debt (“interest charges”).

  6. Nice chart. Clearly Corporations’ share has fallen drastically, and the burden has increasingly fallen on personal taxes to bear the burden. More pronounced a change than I had thought.

    •  I don’t think corporations’ share has fallen drastically.  It’s currently at 13%… it hasn’t been higher than 16% since 1975.

      •  As compared to what.  As a % of Fed Income Corp Taxes in 1980 were 15.2% while Personal Taxes were 37.3% while in 2010 Corp were down to 12.6% while Personal had jumped to 47.9%.  In My math that is a dramatic drop, especially when you consider most Canadians are no longer working in those older high payin jobs but Corps are still pulling in big bucks from cheap overseas labour

    • Corporate taxes as a share of income are definitely bigger than in the pre-1960 era, but what is interesting is that it is still similar to the levels of the 70’s. What that suggests is that, although corporate taxes are lower, corporate income is a bigger share of Canada’s GDP.

      •  Let’s take a look at the numbers, not the pretty graph…  1960 Corp was 21.6%
        2010 Corp is only 12.6%  Personal went from 29.6% up to 47.9% in the same time frame.  So, that says that, as a share of Fed Income measured in % of total Income, Corp share has dropped more than 50% less in 2010 than in 1960 while Personal share has increased by 61%

        • Comparing single years is incredibly arbitrary, since corporate revenues are low during bad economic times. I mean by the same dubious metric, corporate tax share of revenues is up 78% from 1993, even though the tax rate was higher (indeed, my dubious test is less dubious than yours since 1993 and 2010 are both years following shortly after a recession).

          The pretty graph is useful because it can show the average through a longer time period – including good years and bad years.

  7. interesting that corporate is paying a bigger share even with lower taxes. this is clearly the route to follow.

    •  See above, 1980 Corp Share was 15.2% / Personal Taxes were 37.3% while in 2010 Corp were down to 12.6% while Personal had jumped to 47.9%.  Corp is NOT paying a bigger share.  Compare 1960 to 2010 and it is even worse.

    • Corporations do not pay those taxes.  Owners/shareholders (ie. individuals) ultimately pay those taxes.

  8. Emphasis on personal taxes is a double whammy.  It’s good for the government because they get a steady source of income even when a company is losing money.  Individuals get hit twice.  First, when they must cash in their RRSPs they are taxed at much higher rates leaving little for their kids and a windfall for politicians.  Secondly, individual workers are now needed to prop up government so what will happen when our tax base disappears overseas while governments continue to pile up massive debts?  It won’t be pretty.  

    • Unless your income suddenly jumps a lot when you start withdrawing RRSP investments and/or you are not already into the highest tax bracket, you won’t be taxed at higher rates.  But if that’s the case, I recommended you shift as much as possible into TFSA investments.

      When the tax base disappears, we’ll just “print” money until the value of the debt is peanuts.  It will be hard on people on fixed incomes, but that will mostly be the old people who created the problem in the first place by steadfastly refusing to fully fund their government.  Justice will, it seems, be served.  They didn’t want to “pay-go” during their young and middle adulthood, so they can pay now.

  9. So I was born one year after the $0 share of the federal debt, and that one year makes me owe $64,657 over my lifetime. Pity we couldn’t all have been born in 1947.

  10. rather proves what I tell my adult children as a single woman my earnings versus expenditures and inflation and all this global ‘crap’ due to the mulrooney gov. and living in Sk put me in a downward spiral forever with no return.  The taxes I paid – the no credits back in the 80’s, no child care and etc.etc.  left me very ltitle to contribute that $65,000 over my lifetime to the Feds.  God I wish I had been born a boomer – they never fell through the crack and won’t for retirement either!!

  11. What is “other”?  I can’t understand what expenditures go from 0% in 1945 to 36% in a few years – what expenditures are that variable?  The same for “other” Revenues – would that be borrowed money?

  12. Fascinating that my 7-year old already has $7,177 worth of debt.  Oy.

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