The curves illustrating changes in the current expenditures of provincial and local administrations for the four most populous provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia) and Canada between 1989 and 2009 provide clear evidence of an upward trend. For example, in 1989, British Columbia posted the lowest per capita current expenditures, at $5,249. 20 years later – i.e., in 2009 – British Columbia continued to have the lowest per capita expenditures, at $11,567. The figure nevertheless represents an increase of close to 120%, almost three times more than the growth in the population (+39.4% between 1989 and 2009 in this province).
Furthermore, at $7,198 per capita, Alberta was the province posting the highest current expenditures in 1989. In 2009, the provincial and local administrations of this province spent the equivalent of $13,342 per capita, which works out to an increase of nearly 85%. This upward trend is also apparent when one considers the total for expenditures in Canada in 1989 – namely, $6,104 per capita – as compared to the amount recorded for 2009 – namely, $12,407. In this particular case, expenditures can be seen to have increased by close to 103%. Finally, the same situation appears both in Quebec and Ontario, where per capita expenditures rose 110% and 96%, respectively.
Among the factors that explain the sharp increase in per capita expenditures in Canada, inflation has played a major role. According to the Bank of Canada, close to 54% of the difference in expenditure levels owes to inflationary rises between 1989 and 2009 ($1.00 in 1989 was equivalent to approximately $1.54 in 2009). However, a significant share of this growth is due to the expanded intervention of provincial and local administrations in 2009 as compared to 1989. As such, this trend is in keeping with a notable rise in government expenditures (on healthcare in particular) and the creation of new programs (e.g., drug insurance and childcare centres in Quebec).