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Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 1240
March 30, 2016

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Ontario Government Program Spending is far Lower than the Rest of Canada

Doug Allan

The Ontario government spent 1.6 per cent less of provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP) compared to the other provinces in 2010-11. With sharp cutbacks in Ontario, that gap had increased to 2.1 per cent by 2014/15. On this basis, Ontario spent about $15-billion less on programs than the other provinces and territories. On a per capita basis, Ontario is the lowest spending (and lowest revenue) provincial government in Canada. Ontario spent $1,200 less per person in 2010/11 than the other provinces and territories and almost $2,000 less per person in 2014/15. Here the gap is even larger – Ontario spent about $27-billion less on a per capita basis than the other provinces and territories.

Total Provincial/Territorial Government Programs

Source: graph developed from Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI): Data tables – Appendix D.3: Total Provincial/Territorial Government Programs, by Province/Territory and Canada, 1974–1975 to 2014–2015.

The gap is almost certainly growing. In 2015/16 Ontario program spending increased at less than 2/3rd the rate of nominal economic growth, according to the 2016/17 budget. That budget also forecasts increased spending to go up just less than 1 per cent in 2016/17 – or about a quarter of the forecast nominal economic growth. Ontario program spending will continue to decline as a share of the economy. These real funding cuts are having a serious impact on public services.

Ontario Austerity Hits Public Sector Services and Jobs

Over the last two years, Ontario has lost 19,000 public sector workers, with most of the loss occurring in the last year. The downward trend in Ontario contrasts with the upward trend across the rest of Canada.

While Ontario lost, the rest of Canada gained 73,400 over the last two years. In just the last year, the rest of Canada gained 65,300 public sector jobs, while Ontario lost 12,700 public sector jobs. The level of public sector employment was already much lower in Ontario than in the rest of Canada – and with austerity in Ontario that gap is growing rapidly.

If Ontario had the same level of public sector employment as the rest of Canada in 2015, there would be an additional 1.06% of the total population working in the public sector. Ontario is missing 146,196 public sector workers compared to the rest of Canada on per-capita basis. This despite the presence of the national capital in Ontario.

Two years earlier the gap was only 0.63% – or 85,371 fewer public sector workers than the rest of Canada. On a per-capita basis, Ontario has fallen 60,825 public sector jobs further behind the rest of Canada in just two years. When you need a healthcare worker, this reality will come home to roost.

This means far fewer nursing hours for every patient in Ontario hospitals compared to the Canadian average. There are 5.6 nurses in Ontario working in hospitals per 1000 population, whereas there are 6.6 in the rest of Canada [see more stats at]. This, in turn, means far fewer hospital beds and far fewer inpatient days in Ontario.

Age standard average length of stay

Based on CIHI 2013-14 data. CIHI data.

As austerity bites hard, patients are moved out of hospitals quicker and quicker.

Age standard average length of stay

Based on CIHI data.

While length of stay is rapidly declining, hospital re-admissions are increasing at almost the same rate. Here is the 30 day re-admission rate per 100 patients.

30 day re-admission rate per 100 patients

Source: CIHI.

In effect, 9,000 extra patients were readmitted to Ontario hospitals in 2013/14 compared to 2009-10. Austerity comes with a cost. •

Doug Allan writes the blog Defend Public Healthcare.


#4 Doug Allan 2016-03-31 18:08 EDT
Silver bullets, Quebec spending, and public sector employees
I don't know that the piece is a 'silver bullet' but perhaps it does provide some counter to the many claims in the mainstream media about runaway program spending by Ontario.

On the other issue -- by my calculation, Quebec public sector program spending is actually quite a bit higher per capita (and as a percent of GDP) than the rest of Canada. Public sector employment is also higher. So I don't think economies of scale are a significant factor determining program spending and public sector employment in that case at least. Also bear in mind that Ontario must deal with a very low density of population over most of its geography.

Anyway -- that is my two (additional) cents. -- Doug Allan

#3 Anonymous 2016-03-31 16:21 EDT
27 Billion...We will feel that in my bones!
Mr Allan, I salute this submission for your readers to peruse at their leisure. This is significant in light of the lid on dissent which this Province of Ontario has endured. Dissenting opinion has been seen as a negative as always during an economic decline; not welcome when payments are due and your boss is looking at you as nothing more than a step on the ladder to a comfy retirement. This provides me with hope and a continuing engagement with Medical Doctors/Nurses morass.

You've obviously put in the required research necessary for a respectable contribution to the opposition of a top heavy corporately obligated government abusing the residents/ratepayers/consumer tax collection over the years. Why don't we see such fact based research anymore? We do, but often it is a limited space or scope issue, of the average citizen. This is fresh air! As no Professor, and a limited pseudo/academic intellectual, I think I know enough to see the downshift.

Personally, I can breathe better when I know there is concern among other residents on any issue; enough to bring them to light especially with well substantiated and undeniable sources such as Statistics Canada!

One question, as a corollary to my new discovery, is this a "Silver" Bullet? The pen is mightier than the sword!

Respectfully Submitted, Michael Copps, Thunder Bay.

#2 Anonymous 2016-03-30 19:59 EDT

The public service has serious economies of scale, which is why Ontario's spending per capita and number of employees are the lowest of all the provinces. As one might expect, Quebec's are second lowest.

#1 Bill 2016-03-30 05:35 EDT
budget article
Hi, I reposted your article here,

Thanks for all the hard work, and crafting communications.

Bill Dare

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