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Quebec’s ‘welfare state’ on the decline? On the contrary, says new study

Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau is trying to contain the growth of Quebec’s expenses.

MATHIEU BELANGER/REUTERS

Quebec's 'welfare state' is growing, contrary to what many believe, a new study says.

Quebec government spending by far exceeds that of its Ontario counterpart and also surpasses the average for all Canadian provinces, according to an analysis by researchers Robert Gagné and Jonathan Deslauriers of HEC Montréal's Centre for Productivity and Prosperity.

In 2009, government spending accounted for 47 per cent of Quebec's GDP, compared to 38 per cent for Ontario and 39 per cent on average for all Canadian provinces, says the report.

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That means government spending in Quebec in 2009 was 25 per cent higher than in Ontario, say the authors.

On a per capita basis, spending in Quebec was also higher, according to the report.

In 2009, it worked out to an average of $16,150 per capita, or about $1,300 more than in Ontario and $1,450 more than the Canadian provincial average.

"Although it is commonly thought that the welfare state is declining in Quebec, this study shows that the opposite is actually true. The province has to devote a larger share of its financial resources to funding its public sector," says a news release published Wednesday.

About 80 per cent of the growth in government spending in Quebec since 1981 is attributable to an increase in provincial government spending – as opposed to federal or municipal – according to the findings.

That compares to 56 per cent in Ontario and 64 per cent of the average increase in public spending across Canada.

The lion's share of the growth in spending across Canada in the period under study – 1981 to 2009 – was due to rising expenditures on health, education and social services, the report says.

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Social service spending in Quebec in 2009 came out to roughly $2,750 per capita, about 50 per cent higher than in Ontario ($1,400) and 42 per cent higher than the provincial average of $1,150, it says.

"The aging population, parental leave and the increase in the number of subsidized daycare spaces seem to be the main factors behind the increase in public spending in Quebec," says the news release.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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