Government Reform

We Should Be More Like Canada (Seriously)


In our super-spooky 3D issue on slashing government (subscribe today!) there's a great essay from former Canadian and Reason Contributing Editor David Henderson on Canada's spectacular success cutting government in the 1990s. Here's a sneak peek from his essay:

In 1994 government debt was 68 percent of Canada's GDP. By 2008 that number was down to 29 percent. Finance Minister Paul Martin Jr. and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, both of the Liberal Party, are the two unlikely stars in this heroic tale of fiscal discipline….

Martin and Chrétien enforced discipline on other cabinet members with a zero-sum ground rule: If a cabinet member wanted a smaller cut in one program, he had to propose a bigger cut in another.

The piece is based on a larger paper by Henderson, released last week. The whole thing is worth checking out, but here's a stunning chart pulled from its pages:

canada is better than us

Note that those cuts are real cuts, not the phony cuts in the growth of spending that D.C.'s phony fiscal conservatives tout. Real, honest-to-god, less-money-for-each-government-program (except Indians, I guess) cuts.

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  1. You don’t mention that due to social spending cuts, middle class Canadians are now fighting to the death over road kill.

    1. What? Did they run out of canned dog food?

      1. There must be a shortage of Kraft macaroni and cheese (and ketchup)! Or, as they call it, “Kraft dinner”.

        1. And Christie Oreos for dessert. Got to go oot to the store.

          1. There are so many Canadian delicacies that Americans miss out on. Real Smarties, Big Turk, dill pickle flavored chips, the list goes on and on.

            1. Don’t forget poutine!

              1. No one could ever forget poutine.

            2. “Real” Smarties? What could be better than colored, flavored sugar compressed into a pill? Other than Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I mean.

              1. They are similar to, but better than, M&M’s. The next time you find yourself in Canada, get a pack of Smarties, and a double double from Timmy Ho’s and you will be set.

                1. Canadian smarties almost made me barf the one time I treid them. They are a crappy ripoff of M&Ms; that should be banned from the Earth and/or Canada.

                  American smarties are the halloween candy of the Gods.

                  1. Every time I watch “How It’s Made” I wonder what the hell kind of food they’re making. I can’t figure out what odd Bizarro world they sell these strange brands.

                  2. Do yourself a favor and NEVER snort a line of crushed-up Smarties (US version).

                    1. well duh db, that would just be stupid.

                      they already come pre-crushed in a straw. Its called a pixie stick

                2. Don’t forget the Timbits! Everyone should be killing 20 packs with the extra large double double.

              2. Nutella. But that’s not Canadian.

          2. I’m goin’ to get some Elsinore beer. We need anything?

            1. Yeah, bring me back a six-pack of crullers and some back bacon, eh?

    2. Actually I thought they were all stuck indoors watching Strange Brew.

    3. That’s true – they didn’t mention that…

      …maybe there’s no more roadkill, since the middle class in Canada cannot afford cars anymore, according to Krugman et al.

    4. Yum! Fresh meta-roadkill!

  2. In 1994 government debt was 68 percent of Canada’s GDP. By 2008 that number was down to 29 percent.

    Holy shit! They should be in a state of constant recession according to Krugman, Chad and Tony!

    But since they’re not . . .

    Note that those cuts are real cuts, not the phony cuts in the growth of spending that D.C.’s phony fiscal conservatives tout.

    And the kind of phony “cuts” that makes Dems say “they want to starve children!”

    1. “In 1994 government debt was 68 percent of Canada’s GDP. By 2008 that number was down to 29 percent.”

      I have three important questions about that statistic too…

      1a.) What was the effect of oil and commodity prices on Canada’s GDP?

      1b.) What was the effect of the mid-’90s currency crisis? Seems to me Canada’s currency (like all the countries’ currencies tied to commodities like oil and minerals) took a big hit circa ’94. …only to strengthen as commodity prices rose.

      2.) What was the effect of immigration into Canada? I believe Canada experienced tremendous growth in immigration over that period. Having more people means more economic activity–having less people means “Detroit”.

      3.) What was the effect of NAFTA?

      All those variables seem like they’d have a big positive impact on GDP growth in that period.

  3. Why can’t we leave snarky comments on the Daily Brickbats?

    1. Yeah, I miss being able to comment on those.

    2. Blame those Great white North, frost covered, back-bacon eating, sister-rimming bastards for that.

      The budget wasn’t the only things the Canukians cut.

  4. I look at that chart and see several categories where the % cut is huge. Then I notice that the overall % cut is small at around 18%. Looking further, I can’t help but wonder if all those huge dropoffs are offset by the one small dropoff in “Health.”

    It just makes me wonder what % of their decrease is attributable to people coming to America for procedures and those who have been getting private insurance because they don’t want to wait 9 months to have a cancerous mole removed or can’t get a new kidney for 6 years.

    Good story, I just wonder about the impact the private sector had on the biggest part of the cuts and what % of their government expenditures go into that boondoggle to begin with.

    1. Re: Sloopyinca,

      Then I notice that the overall % cut is small at around 18%.

      That’s still an 18% total REDUCTION in spending from 1994 to 1995. That’s quite an achievement – well, not really, but it would be if their parliament had Dems and Republirats in their midst…

      1. Don’t get me wrong. What they’ve done is impressive. I just wonder what % of their money goes to their nationalized health care. Based (loosely) on the chart, it’s gotta be upwards of a third of their overall spending.

        That’s all. I just wish we could reduce spending by any amount.

        1. And like most of Europe they are arguably partially free ridng on our massive bloated diabetic hobbled military.

          1. Who the hell’s going to invade Canada?

            1. Laplanders. Have you not heard of the reindeer forage habitat crisis?

  5. Sound as a Dollar. Canadian Dollar.

  6. Great, we come in second to the Canuckistans in deficit reduction. That’s a crushing blow to the old national ego.

    Are an awesome arsenal of nuclear weapons all I have left to take nationalistic pride in?

    Oh, wait, I can still own guns, so we still have that over the flip-tops.

    1. They can own guns too. It’s just more of a pain in the ass to follow the regulations. A huge pain in the ass.

      1. And apparently two-thirds of Canadians support the idiotic long-gun registry. If you look at the NP’s regional breakdown, however, you can see that, as with so many things, this can be entirely blamed on the Quebecois.

        1. Are you a former Canadian, citizenship-wise?

          1. I am still a Canadian, with a US green card. I would get my US citizenship if I didn’t have to A) pay money, and B) deal with USCIS.

            1. I don’t get why a Canadian can’t become an American by simply signing a document saying that you want to do so. Like we aren’t practically the same thing already. Only Americans and Canadians can tell each other apart, and that’s only not counting people from Minnesota.

              1. My in-laws from Rochester’s accents sound slightly Canadian to me.

                1. My sole plan for escaping a terrorist hostage crisis is to ditch my passport and insist that I’m Canadian, um, eh? They’ll land the plane to let me off, then go crash it into something, like Disneyland.

                  1. Canadians love to imagine Americans traipsing around Europe with maple leaves sewed on their backpacks. Having lived amoung Americans, I seriously doubt many actually do this.

                    1. It’s a two-edged sword. You might avoid violence if you pretend to be a “safe” Canadian, but, on the other hand, you might avoid violence if you are a crazy, blow-everything-up American.

                2. I live in Rochester and can spot a canadian before they even open thier mouth

                  1. Usually I have to see their teeth to notice their “innate” Canadianess. Every time I think, “Jesus do they have dentists or witch doctors up there?” No offense Dags.

              2. That’s because of all those Canadians that steal American jobs, Pro… You know, the American economy being stronger and all – – – What are you laughing at???

        2. I am skeptical of this polls results. Almost every other poll has found a majority against.

        3. Crap-olla…. I would’ve thought B.C. to have a more libertarian stance on firearms than that poll would indicate. The ‘gun issue’ is by far the biggest reason I would not want to move to Canada – and British Columbia is friggin’ beautiful.

    2. Isnt per capita gun ownership in Canada higher or nearly as high as in the US?

      They just dont have pistols. And everyone in Manitoba has an arsenal.

      1. Note: Manitoba is just an example, is its the one province between Ontario and BC I both know and can spell.

        1. You can’t spell Alberta?

          1. Maybe s/he just doesn’t know Alberta.

            1. No way. We all know Alberta. From that shampoo they export.

          2. What about Suscatchoo…Sasquatchew…Sisketch…Oh, fuck it. I didn’t want to go there anyway.

            1. South Dakota?

              1. Anyway, the only good thing that came from Canada is episodes of Survivorman…

                1. What about the Shat? Come on, man, he justifies the whole country. Even Canadians agree with that.

                  1. Hello, Degrassi……..

                2. Hello? The multi-time World Pipe Band Champions Simon Fraser University Pipe Band

                3. Dude bow down Rush, rock gods of the frozen wastes.

                  1. Just saw them in concert this past Friday. They’re still great performers.

          3. I forgot about Alberta. There was Manitoba, that one I cant remember, and see Isaac below. I decided not to attempt like he did.

            1. Everyone forgets about me….:(

              1. Pretty sure you aren’t between Ontario and BC.

            2. rob

              I used to live in Saskatchewan, so you see I do know how to spell it.

              I just wish I didn’t.

              As I have often said, “if God wanted to give the world an enema, He’d know where to stick the tube.”

    3. T|10.6.10 @ 5:59PM|#
      “Are an awesome arsenal of nuclear weapons all I have left to take nationalistic pride in?”
      Naah. You can pride yourself in that the arsenal allows the Euro-trash politicos to buy votes from their brain-dead populations without paying for defense.

  7. I’ll have you know that on this very blog, Canadian diplomat Aresen and I came to an agreement that if Quebec secedes, the United States will not allow it to join our union. Our (secret) treaty is called FUQUE. I’ll let you speculate on what FUQUE stands for.

    1. I saw an interview with some head of one of the martime provinces, back in the Quebec succession days, who said if Q left Canada they would be forced to join the USA.

      My first response was “Who invited you”? The I realized it would be okay as long as they agreed to be one state. Im not willing to give PEI 2 senators. So, the 4 maritime provinces form one state and they cant join.

      1. Pat Buchanan was advocating this some years ago.

      2. My paturnal grandfather was born (1892) and raised in Bar Harbor, Maine. He always said that in those days coastal Mainers felt a stronger kinship to Nova Scotians than they did to anyone in the rest of the USA.

  8. Hey, what’s that about Henderson being a former Canadian? Did he come south begging for asylum from the oppression of our northern brothers (and sisters!)? Is he a Canadian draft dodger? What gives?

  9. Indians are the one proper function of government.

    1. You don’t have any reservations about that?


    2. I want a t-shirt with this on it.

      It’s kind of odd that spending on Indians didn’t get cut, given that bitching about drunks on the rez getting a free truck a year seems like a favorite national pastime, regardless of political affiliation.

      1. A free truck a year?? WTF?

        1. It seems only fair, if they keep wrecking the previous year’s truck by DUI.


  10. That is a nice chart. That sort of cutting seems to have worked for the Canadians. In a spirit of continental federalism, how about the US trying a different experiment? Choose just one Department to be cut by 100%. Cutting Education, for example, would save a mere 1.32% of the 2010 budget. Surely that’s not a terrible sacrifice.

    1. If you actually had someone with the stones to enforce discipline, then I could easily see the other departments all ganging up on, say, Education or Energy and zeroing it out so they could divvy up its budget.

    2. I’m in. Can’t we vote to recall a whole department? If not, why not?

    3. We could cut our Dept of Education that has no schools.
      Or the Dept of Labor that manufactures nothing.
      Or the Dept of Energy that operates no power plants.
      Or the Dept of Health(HS) that operates no hospitals.
      Or the Dept of Agriculture that grows nothing.
      Or the Dept of Homeland Security because we have a DoD.
      Or the Dept of Commerce because they sell/trade nothing.

      Well, I’m gonna stop there before my fucking head explodes. Goddammit. Writing it makes it worse.

      1. I’m gonna steal this – thanks, sloopy!

        1. Wow. Usually I get shit from some people on here or they just silently follow my comments.

          Is this my first hat tip?

      2. +Hat tip

        Sloopyinca,this is beyond good.

        1. In the immortal words of Henry the Red, “Thank you, generous hosts.”

      3. Excellent.

  11. Canada is run largely by rationalists and escaped the fin crisis with decent regs.

    While the US was run by SoCon Creationist idiots like Bush who turned away from capitalism.

    1. Actually banks aren’t any more heavily regulated in Canada than hre.

      Canadian bankers are more conservative.

      You need 20% down to buy a house because the bankers think anyone who can’t save that up is a deadbeat, not because the government tells them to.

      And they don’t lend money to people who can’t pay it back because, silly Canadians, they like to get paid back (and they know they don’t have rich uncle that’s gonna bail them out).

      1. You mostly make my point but Canada also allows creditors to seize OTHER assets when a mortgage holder defaults.

        1. “idiots like Obama who turned away from capitalism”

          There… MUCH better. Not that Bush was any good at it, but there ya go.

          1. No, Obama aided capitalism – see Supervisory Capital Assessment Program of March 2009 that turned the S&P up 25% from the Bush Depression.

            1. shrike, if you think Obama gives two shits about capitalism, you’re a bigger fool than you used to be.

              1. I name an act that aided capital preservation and you give me a Fat Rush talking point?

                Lick my Emanuels.

                1. You seriously think naming a government program = proof of loving capitalism? Fucking idiot.

                  1. Stupid dipshit – the bank stress tests forced the banks to acquire secondary capital to survive – and it worked to the great upside of the markets.

                    Your Bushneck hero would have let the banking system die and take millions of depositors along with it.

                    I wish Bush rednecks like yourself endeavored to learn something about DIP capital.

                    1. shrike|10.6.10 @ 8:43PM|#
                      “Stupid dipshit”
                      Asshole ignoramus

                      “Your Bushneck hero”
                      Your Obamafuck hero…

                      “I wish Bush rednecks”
                      I wish Obamafuck ignoramuses…

                    2. shrike|10.6.10 @ 8:43PM|#
                      “Stupid dipshit”
                      BTW, brain-dead asshole, you never quite bothered to respond to the fact that you move the goal posts to claim some sort of market-timing expertise.
                      Could that be that you’re a brain-dead fucking asshole who lies?

                    3. Your Bushneck hero would have let the banking system die and take millions of depositors along with it.

                      Bush passed TARP, fuckwit. Sounds like he’s your hero.

                2. shrike|10.6.10 @ 8:06PM|#
                  “I *name* an act…”
                  Right. How about “Social Security”?

                3. I don’t listen to Limbaugh, you fuck. You, OTOH, sound like an Ed Schultz fan.

        2. shrike|10.6.10 @ 6:52PM|#
          “You mostly make my point but Canada also allows creditors to seize OTHER assets when a mortgage holder defaults.’
          Can we assume your ideology keeps you from mentioning Franny and Freddy? Oh, why not? How much is cherry-picking paying now?

      2. US banks are heavily regulated in insane ways. Much of the nonsense that finally blew up in 2008 was invented to keep banks solvent in spite of the regulations.

        Give anything to a bunch of 26 year old harvard grads and it will self destruct. Good thing they didn’t take over medical care.


    2. Re: Shrike,

      Canada is run largely by rationalists and escaped the fin crisis with decent regs.

      They escaped the financial crisis because they don’t have Barney Frank . . . and probably will not want him there at all.

      While the US was run by SoCon Creationist idiots like Bush who turned away from capitalism.

      How do you explain the new Tlatoani, then???

      1. Old Mexican Fool – I won at least 4 weeks of deference from you in the health thread…

        Who made Barney Frank President or Speaker?

        Quit spitting out Rush Limbaugh (King of the Rednecks) lies and talking points.

        1. Why isn’t “redneck” on the same list of hate-speech words most liberals rail about? Very curious.

          Oh, and fuck you, shrike.

          1. I hate Muslims too.

            Not just Islam — no, anyone who slurps that shit.

            I also hate Christ-Fags.

            Do you understand?

            1. You’re a pretty pathetic liberal, then.

              1. I am a pathetic liberal?

                I am a Hayek/Ayn Rand liberal – and atheism is the only honest state of being.

                FaT Rush – praise be unto him – would draw their scorn.

                1. You’re no fan of Hayek. You’re a fucking Democrat.

                  1. I wish I were alive, I would choke this little schmuck.

                  2. Hayek hated conservatives! He wrote a famous essay on it!

                    1. I doubt Hayek would have thought much of the far-left, either.

                2. FaT Rush – praise be unto him – would draw their scorn.

                  So you’d like Limbaugh’s ideas if he were as anorectic as Karen Carpenter?

            2. shrike|10.6.10 @ 7:14PM|#
              “I hate Muslims too.
              Not just Islam — no, anyone who slurps that shit.
              I also hate Christ-Fags.
              Do you understand?”
              Absolutely. I’d guess your dog hates your guts. For good reason.

              1. shrike is going with the “oh, if you don’t hate Limbaugh as much as I do, you’re supporting him” defense. How pathetic.

          2. I saw a History channel show recently that touched on this. The original “rednecks” were working class folks intent on creating a Union workforce.

        2. FAT RUSH!

          1. It’s okay when WE use hurtful words.

            1. Can’t you at least let me use my own words?

              Attack my ideas.

              Are you that dishonest?

              1. Quit spitting out Rush Limbaugh (King of the Rednecks) lies and talking points.

                1. So, shrike… is “redneck” a derogatory term, or not? Because I watched that jackass Obama today, and I want to know if the term “jackass” is hate speech.

                  Wait… it’s probably racist somehow. Even if it isn’t.

                  1. Sure its derogatory.

                    Who gives a fuck? A poll came out today that said that non-educated whites make up the GOP gains.

                    Educated whites like myself are more liberal than conservative – and it runs to the top tier of capitalists like Buffett, Gates, Brin, Page, Ellison, Soros etc etc etc

                    Go vote for you local Teabagger hick.

                    That is what it is all about.

                    1. One of your many errors is to believe that more education = better politics. If only it were that simple. Wilson and Hoover were both bright and had lots of education, and were bad presidents. Coolidge and Eisenhower and Reagan were considered dim bulbs, and yet did much better.

                      As Orwell pointed out, there are some ideas so stupid that only educated people will believe them.

                      There are smart and stupid people (and well- and ill-educated ones) on all sides of nearly every political issue. Intelligence and education generally don’t correlate with political belief, because one’s overall political stance is more about emotions.


                    3. I really offended you dittleheads.

                      I love it.

                    4. shrike|10.6.10 @ 8:47PM|#
                      “I really offended you dittleheads.”
                      Really love making an asshole of yourself, do you?

                    5. Awesome PapayaSF, total zinger….

                    6. shrike|10.6.10 @ 8:03PM|#
                      “Sure its derogatory.
                      Who gives a fuck? A poll came out today that said that non-educated whites make up the GOP gains.”

                      Not assholes like you. Highly educated Euro-trash supported communism long after less-educated folks (including those who lived under it) knew it was dead.

                    7. “Educated whites like myself”

                      Wow… racist AND elitist. Team Blue fans are like that.

              2. shrike|10.6.10 @ 7:43PM|#
                “Attack my ideas.”
                Love to. Got any?

    3. Canada is run more like a one-party benevolent dictatorship.

      Every once in a while the Tories get in to keep the Liberal Party honest.

      And the liberals use their stranglehold to promote themselves in social studies classes and through the media.

      This is sort of the kind of situation the Democrats expected to happen and are constantly striving for. A permanent majority and a perpetually whipped opposition party they can use as a foil.

  12. Uh, before anyone gets carried away here, I will point out that Chretien & Martin had no choice: The Loonie was in the toilet and Canadian bonds were on the verge of being downgraded. (They actually were downgraded slightly.) Also, they raised taxes like the dead rising at the rapture.

    Also, current Prime Minister Harper – a supposed Conservative – has been spending freely in the last few years.

    TBS, the Chretien/Martin cuts saved us from a Greek style crisis.

  13. Are the unexplained vertical lines on the chart talking trees or “bacon”?

  14. As a Canadian myself, I too wish Canada was more like Canada in those years.

  15. shrike, I’m interested in learning your opinion of Rush Limbaugh. Do you admire him?

  16. Come join us, shrike. Your hatred of Muslims is a good start, but we can teach you to REALLY let loose.

    1. I pretty much hate all conservatives be they Westboro, the Taliban, or Jim DeMint.

      1. …but I love the religion of government.

        1. You are a good minion, shrike. I will allow you to live in My Future America.

          IF you continue to spread My Good Word, that is.

  17. “Indian and Northern Affairs”

    WTF, every pc canuckian knows them as First Nations or you may run afoul of the hate speech laws.

  18. The biggest cuts were to Defense and Transfer Payments to the provinces. Unlike the US, there wasn’t much fat to cut in the Cdn defense budget, and so those cuts crippled the already tiny Canadian military. The cuts to Transfer Payments (principally to pay for the Federally-mandated universal healthcare) just shifted the costs onto the provincial governments, resulting in higher provincial taxes and cuts to spending on higher education and infrastructure.

    1. The cuts to Transfer Payments for healthcare also resulted in the longer waiting lines 1999-200? according to one source I saw. Also, cuts in covered services at the provincial level IIANM; Ontario no longer covers chiropractic treatments, I’m told.

      Since some well publicized cases where patients died in queues for treatments (cancer, heart bypasses etc) the feds have loosened some purse-strings and the deficit is creeping north again.

      I could be wrong.

  19. Without delving into David Henderson’s PDF, I’m going to guess that his explor’n of “how” does not include “how, politically”. So how do you guys think it was accomplished politically?

    I think they were just more desperate, and had a lot less cushion than the USA. Plus, their provincial gov’ts are a bigger share of total gov’t than are the states of the USA.

  20. While reading the lot and suffering Shrike’s ignorance, I don’t see anything that relates to how the Canuks fund their socialism.
    As I understand it, the claim of ‘universal healthcare’ is not strictly true. The care is funded by the provinces, not the federal government; if you move, you are not covered *at all* until you establish residence in your new location.
    So, without looking at the provinces’ budgets (which carry the load for healthcare), I’m not sure that the numbers in the chart really mean much.
    Happy to hear info, even if it comes from the brain-dead asshole.

    1. Canada price controls drugs and doctor and nurses pay.

      The downside of this is that there are shortages. Canada has about half the doctors per capita as the US.
      That is what is behind the waiting lists.

      The second unseen aspect is that Canada has experienced a medical brain drain. The best doctors have been moving to the US where they receive much higher pay, with the gaps being filled by immigrants from third world countries, reducing overall quality of care.

      1. Just found this surfing around the web …

        A law firm specializing in recruiting physicians to immigrate to Canada.

    2. …if you move, you are not covered *at all* until you establish residence in your new location.

      Yes, but federal portability rules say you are covered by your former province of residence for the ninety-day period it takes to become eligible in your new province.

      The Canadian Constitution (and the British North America Act before it – the “constitution under which the healthcare legislation was passed) gives the federal government a lot more power to impose unfunded mandates on the provinces than the COTUS does.

      But you do bring up an interesting point. I challenge anyone to name a single country in the world with a function socialized health plan that is as big and diverse as the USA.

      Canad does not have a national health schemes, it has ten provincial plus [I forget] territorial ones. The biggest Canadian province has fewer people than the eighth (IIANM) most populous US state. It is quite easy to run a welfare state for a small population, especially one as conformist as Canada’s.

    3. They fund their socialism partly by spending next to nothing on defense. The country would probably fall to the Michigan National Guard.

  21. Fuck me. As soon as I leave Canada for the US, America goes more socialist and Canada become a small government paradise.

    Fuck me.

    1. Just send me your address.

    2. Don’t despair.

      If it’s any consolation, my marginal income tax rate is 46.2%.

      And then I get to pay another 13% tax on any goods or services I purchase. Even more if they happen to be alcohol, tobacco, gasoline, etc…

      And don’t get me started on the already huge gap in retail prices between Canada & the USA. (Simple example: A 2011 BMW M3 Sedan. US$55,400 vs. C$70,300)

  22. Some other interesting links

    Canadian liberals wring their hands over the morality of stealing all those physicians from the third world:

    NIH comments approvingly on the large number of Canadian physicians who have immigrated to the US:…..MC1839794/

    1. I highly recommend the first link, btw… seriously funny shit.

    2. On the subject of physicians in Canada, I should also mention, I haven’t had the luxury of a family doctor since back in the early 90s.

      The usual answer is “Sorry, Dr. ____ isn’t taking on new patients right now. Would you like me to put your name on his/her waiting list? If it’s an emergency, let me refer you to a nearby walk-in clinic.”

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