Conservatives, and what they’ve done with the national debt

by | Aug 19, 2015

I have been investigating the Conservative government. There is a lot of ground to cover, so at the moment I’m focussing on the national debt.

I understand that the Conservatives claim to have done a good job with the Canadian economy. However, the national debt has increased while they were in power. So this seems like a false claim. My dad pointed out that the more important measure is not the exact size of the debt, but its size in proportion to GDP. So I looked that up as well.

Canada Government Debt To GDP

On this chart, I see that the Canadian debt to GDP ratio fell sharply from 1996-97 (under Jean Chretien, then for a couple of years Paul Martin), until 2006, when Harper and the Conservatives were elected. It rose sharply until 2008, when the recession hit. Then it rose some more. When the recession ended, 2010ish, it continued to rise. In the last couple of years they have managed to bring the debt to GDP ratio down a tiny bit, finally. I guess this is why they’re saying they are good for the economy. It kind of seems like all the ground gained came from high oil prices, though.

So the Conservative track record on national debt doesn’t look very good to me.



From Huffington Post:

“There is no question the national debt decreased during the Conservatives’ first two full years in power, falling to $457.6 billion in 2007-08 — a reduction of just over $37 billion from the day the government was sworn into office on Feb. 6, 2006.

Those same national accounts show the debt crested in 1996-97 at $562.88 billion (as a proportion of GDP, debt actually peaked a year earlier at 67.1 per cent), then fell in absolute dollars in every single year through 2007-08 — when the debt was down to 29.2 per cent of GDP.

[ … ]

By 2008-09, the federal government was back in deficit, recording a $10 billion shortfall.”


Trading Economics on Canadian Government Debt to GDP: (

And for those who like spreadsheets:

Federal Government Public Accounts: (