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Canadian Classification of Functions of Government, 2008 to 2012 (provisional estimates)

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Released: 2014-11-26

Provisional estimates of the expenses of general government using the Canadian Classification of Functions of Government (CCOFOG) are now available from 2008 to 2012. The CCOFOG is a variant of the international functional expenditure classification standard developed by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It was designed to allow international comparisons regardless of the organizational differences of governments. It has been modified and supplementary categories added to better reflect the Canadian perspective. Government expenditures classified by function provide an important picture of the role governments play in delivering services such as health, education, social protection and public order and safety to citizens.

This is the second of three releases from the Canadian Government Finance Statistics program and covers the functional expenses for all sectors of general government. Data on financial assets and liabilities will be released in early 2015.

The data sources, methods and concepts that underlie the CCOFOG-based data depart significantly from the Financial Management System (FMS)-based data previously published by Statistics Canada.

Given the magnitude of these differences, Statistics Canada has decided to release the data with the provisional qualifier. This qualifier signals to users that although the data are fit for use, they are subject to revisions. Over the next year these data will be integrated into the rest of the Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts (the National accounts, Balance of payments, International investment position and Input-output tables) resulting in revisions as data, concepts and methods are reconciled and aligned within the national accounts framework.

The data will retain their provisional status until a number of improvements are implemented over the next year. These improvements include balancing grants across levels of government, adding capital expenditures and capital stock as well as consolidating inter-sector transactions and stock positions.

While some of the detailed series will be revised over the next year and some data gaps will remain, the general story and trends found in the current data will remain similar.

It is important to note that in the current version of the CCOFOG statistics, data are not consolidated. Users cannot use the data to make provincial or territorial comparisons, including provincial and territorial per-capita comparisons before first understanding how the services are delivered in a given province or territory. Provincial and territorial comparisons will be facilitated with future releases once the data have been consolidated and inter-government transfers have been removed. Until consolidated data are released, analysis should be limited to time-series analysis of a specific level of government within a province or territory. If provincial or territorial comparisons are made it must be done so with caution—fully understanding the service delivery model employed by the province or territory.

Role of the federal government

The CCOFOG data present a summary overview of the role of the federal government in the economy. The largest category of expenses for the federal government is general public services. This category is largely made up of transfers to other levels of government as well as debt services, and highlights the federal government's role in equalizing the fiscal capacity of every province and territory. The second-largest category of expenses is social protection. This category includes the old age security program, family allowance, and the Employment Insurance program, reflecting the federal government's role in income security for seniors and the unemployed.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Federal government expenses by function, five-year average, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table
Federal government expenses by function, five-year average, 2008 to 2012

Chart 1: Federal government expenses by function, five-year average, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table

Why provincial and territorial comparisons need to be made with caution

To appropriately use the CCOFOG data, users need a solid understanding of the way government services are delivered—especially at the local, provincial and territorial levels. For example, in 2010, the Prince Edward Island provincial government restructured the delivery of health services from the provincial general government to the health sector. This change in the delivery model resulted in sharp increases of expenses in the health sector in the CCOFOG health category in 2010, as health boards were created in the province. There is not a corresponding drop in health expenses by the provincial general government in 2010, as the provincial health expenses now include the transfers to the health sector. Furthermore, totalling the expenses on health of the provincial general government and the health sector would result in double-counting the value of transfers.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Health expenses, Prince Edward Island, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table
Health expenses, Prince Edward Island, 2008 to 2012

Chart 2: Health expenses, Prince Edward Island, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table

While adding the expenses of different levels of government together should be avoided, the data are useful if users would like to compare how services are delivered (that is, comparing health expenses from one level of government to another). Users are also encouraged to examine the evolution of government expenses by a given jurisdiction through time. Once CCOFOG data are consolidated, aggregate provincial and territorial comparisons will be possible—including per-capita spending comparisons.

Uses of Canadian Classification of Functions of Government data

One of the uses of CCOFOG data is to examine the role of governments during natural disasters. In 2011, unprecedented flooding in Manitoba damaged millions of acres of farmland, numerous roads and bridges and left thousands homeless. Expenses of the Manitoba provincial government in the public order and safety category almost doubled in 2011, as the Manitoba provincial government incurred emergency expenses related to flood fighting and mitigation work. Expenses in the economic affairs category increased almost 30%, as the province expanded its agricultural support programs. The nature of these expenses was temporary and both expense categories returned to their normal levels the following year.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Manitoba provincial government expenses, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table
Manitoba provincial government expenses, 2008 to 2012

Chart 3: Manitoba provincial government expenses, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table

Another interesting use of the CCOFOG data is to examine the stability of services provided to citizens. For example, during the five-year period under review, the expense proportions of the Quebec provincial general government remained fairly stable at the three-digit CCOFOG level. The expense proportional chart below highlights the provincial responsibilities in the areas of health, social protection and education. It takes a significant shift in the service delivery model to affect the expense proportions at the three-digit CCOFOG level. Expenses on health, the largest category, include health transfers to other sectors to deliver programs, as well as direct health program spending in the form of salaries and wages and other operating costs.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Canadian Classification of Functions of Government (CCOFOG): Quebec provincial general government expense proportions, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table
Canadian Classification of Functions of Government (CCOFOG): Quebec provincial general government expense proportions, 2008 to 2012

Chart 4: Canadian Classification of Functions of Government (CCOFOG): Quebec provincial general government expense proportions, 2008 to 2012 - Description and data table

  Note to readers

Expenses within the Canadian Government Finance Statistics program are classified according to two different classification systems: the economic classification system, as well as a functional classification, the Canadian Classification of the Functions of Government (CCOFOG). The CCOFOG is a detailed classification of the functions, or socioeconomic objectives, that government units aim to achieve through various kinds of outlays. This is different than the economic classification system, which classifies each expense according to the type of expense incurred in the course of delivering the good or service to the public (for example, compensation of employees, use of goods and services and social benefits).

No total government sector aggregate is provided in this first release of the CCOFOG statistics as further refinement of the data is required to eliminate the transactions between levels of government. Consolidated government data of all levels of government will be available in November 2015.

Data correspond to the end of the fiscal year closest to December 31. For example, data for the federal government fiscal year ending on March 31, 2010 (fiscal year 2009/2010), are reported in reference year 2009.

The initial compilation of the CCOFOG statistics was a complex undertaking including structural, presentational, conceptual and statistical changes. Regular users of Statistics Canada's data are urged to familiarize themselves with these changes.

The classification structure Canadian Classification of Functions of Government (CCOFOG) 2014 is now available in the Definitions, data sources and methods module of our website.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@canada.ca).

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