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The Glacier Grinds Closer: How Demographics Will Change Canada’s Fiscal Landscape


  • William B.P. Robson

    (C.D. Howe Institute)


The impacts of demographic change on Canada's fiscal landscape will be profound, and as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, they are no longer far away. If current patterns of spending in age-sensitive public programs - healthcare, education, elderly and children's benefits - persist as the population evolves, Canadians will divert more of their incomes from other public and private purposes to fund them. Discounted over 50 years, that increase amounts to an implicit liability of $2.8 trillion for governments, with essentially all the burden falling on the provinces and territories rather than on Ottawa.

Suggested Citation

  • William B.P. Robson, 2010. "The Glacier Grinds Closer: How Demographics Will Change Canada’s Fiscal Landscape," e-briefs 106, C.D. Howe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdh:ebrief:106

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    Cited by:

    1. Colin Busby, 2011. "The Fragile Fiscal Pulse of Canada's Industrial Heartland: Ontario 2011 Budget," e-briefs 113, C.D. Howe Institute.
    2. William Robson & Colin Busby & Aaron Jacobs, 2014. "Healthcare and an Aging Population: Managing Slow-Growing Revenues and Rising Health Spending in British Columbia," e-briefs 195, C.D. Howe Institute.
    3. Ake Blomqvist & Colin Busby, 2012. "Long-Term Care for the Elderly: Challenges and Policy Options," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 367, November.
    4. William Robson & Colin Busby & Aaron Jacobs, 2014. "Managing Healthcare for an Aging Population: Ontario’s Troubling Collision Course," e-briefs 192, C.D. Howe Institute.
    5. Angelo Melino, 2011. "Moving Monetary Policy Forward: Why Small Steps - and a Lower Inflation Target - Make Sense for the Bank of Canada," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 319, January.
    6. Christopher Ragan, 2011. "Precision Targeting: The Economics – and Politics – of Improving Canada’s Inflation-Targeting Framework," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 321, February.
    7. James P. Bruce, 2011. "Protecting Groundwater: The Invisible and Vital Resource," C.D. Howe Institute Backgrounder, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 136, February.
    8. Don Drummond & Evan Capeluck & Matthew Calver, 2015. "The Key Challenge for Canadian Public Policy: Generating Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth," CSLS Research Reports 2015-11, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

    More about this item


    Fiscal Policy; Canada; demographics; government programs; health; education; seniors; families;

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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