The Daily
 In the news  Indicators  Releases by subject
 Special interest  Release schedule  Information

Canadian Classification of Functions of Government, 2017

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Released: 2018-11-28

Canadian general government—federal, provincial-territorial and local combined—spent $177.3 billion or $4,830 per person in 2017 on social protection, which includes programs to help children, the elderly, those in low income, the unemployed and the disabled. This was the consolidated governments' largest expense, and marked the second time in a decade that spending on social protection exceeded health care spending.

Higher spending on federally administered programs and services related to sickness and disability ($1.1 billion) and old age ($2.7 billion), combined with increased provincial-territorial and local government (PTLG) spending on family and children services ($2.2 billion), explains the significant increase in social protection spending in 2017.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Share of consolidated provincial-territorial and local government expenses by function, 2017
Share of consolidated provincial-territorial and local government expenses by function, 2017

Social protection expenses are lowest in Atlantic Canada

Combined provincial-territorial and local governments spent $69 billion or $1,879 per person in 2017 on social protection.

Overall, provincial spending on social protection was highest in Saskatchewan ($2,295 per person) and Quebec ($2,193 per person). The higher levels in Saskatchewan were due, in part, to extensive sickness, disability and survivor benefit coverage provided by the province's compulsory public auto insurance program. In Quebec, which also has a public auto insurance program, the higher spending was tied, in large part, to the provincially subsidized universal child care program, which was included under family and children expenses.

Expenses on social protection were the lowest in Prince Edward Island ($1,138 per person) and Newfoundland and Labrador ($1,386 per person).

Quebec and Manitoba spend significantly more on family and children services

Quebec spent the most on family and children services, with per-capita spending of $889 or $7.5 billion in 2017. Manitoba spent the second-highest amount with a per-capita spending of $670 or $896 million. On a per capita basis, Manitoba spent nearly 50% more than the next highest province, Ontario. In recent years, Manitoba has increased spending on child protective services and lodging. Overall, the number of children-and-youth-in-care has nearly doubled over the past decade and the budgeted funding for child welfare has nearly tripled.

New Brunswick more than doubled its spending on family and children from 2016 to 2017, largely the result of increased funding for child protection and early child development programs. Spending on family and children as a share of total social protection spending in New Brunswick rose from 20% in 2008 to 26% in 2017, making it slightly higher than the Canadian provincial average of 25%.

Social exclusion spending highest in Quebec

Social exclusion, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development / United Nations classification, includes benefits to persons who are at the risk of being socially excluded, such as low-income earners, refugees, and homeless persons. Social exclusion expenses were the highest per capita in Quebec ($611 or $5.1 billion), followed by Nova Scotia ($464 or $443 million). Quebec's high spending was attributable to significant contributions from the social assistance and social solidarity programs that were aimed at actively supporting low-income individuals in their social and professional integration efforts.

Alberta has spent the least on social exclusion over the past decade, with per-capita spending of $153. Alberta, however, increased spending by nearly 50% from 2015 to 2017, and has added initiatives aimed at providing income support to low income or destitute persons.

Hospital expenses significantly higher in Atlantic Canada

Health was the largest expense category of provincial-territorial and local governments at $4,595 per person or $168.7 billion in 2017, accounting for more than one-third of all expenses. Health expenses across Canada rose from $3,624 in 2008, and the share of heath expenses to the total PTLG spending has also increased over the same period.

Hospital expenses were the highest per capita in Newfoundland and Labrador ($4,641) and New Brunswick ($4,420) in 2017. This was tied to the higher wages paid compared with the Canadian average and higher employment in the hospital sector in these provinces.

Ontario spent the least per capita at $2,468, nearly 15% less than the next lowest province, British Columbia ($2,894).

British Columbia spent the most on outpatient services with per-capita spending of $802 or $3.9 billion in 2017. Generally, British Columbia and Ontario have spent the most on outpatient services over the past decade, with increased expenses related to medical or paramedical services that are delivered at home or through outpatient clinics, such as community care facilities.

Transportation expenses are highest in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador

Transportation expenses generally account for nearly half of total provincial-territorial and local government spending on the economic affairs category. Transportation expenses include all economic activities related to various modes of transportation, including road, water, air, rail, pipeline and other transportation modes. New Brunswick ($870) spent the most per capita on transportation in 2017, followed closely by Newfoundland and Labrador ($834). Over the past decade, these two provinces have generally spent more on transportation expenses than other provinces. Saskatchewan ($389) and Manitoba ($439) have generally spent the least per capita.

Crop insurance drives volatility in provincial agriculture spending

Saskatchewan has dominated spending on agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting over the past decade, with per-capita spending of $459 or $534 million in 2017, down from $966 or $1.1 billion in 2016. Most of the expense volatility can be linked to public agriculture insurance corporations that are responsible for administering programs such as crop insurance, wildlife damage compensation, and various price insurance programs. Crop insurance is purchased by agricultural producers to protect themselves against potential losses due to natural disasters or price declines in agricultural products.

Spending on housing and community amenities reaches a record high in British Columbia in 2016

Spending on housing and community amenities were largely driven by local government expenses and accounted for just over 1.5% of total Canadian general government spending or $10.9 billion in 2017. It is the smallest functional expense category and has been for the past decade. In 2017, Alberta provincial-territorial and local governments spent the most on housing and community amenities per-capita at $288 or $1.2 billion, while Prince Edward Island spent the least ($112 or $17 million).

The introduction of more detailed Canadian Classifications of Functions of Government shows that in 2016, British Columbia spent more on housing and community development than any other province over the past decade. The provincial government committed over $500 million through the Housing Priorities Initiative Fund to increase the housing stock and to provide loans and support programs to assist with the maintenance and acquisition of new housing units. The revenue to fund the program was generated through a 15% property transfer tax on foreign buyers that was re-invested back into the economy to equalize the housing market.

Sustainable Development Goals

On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—the United Nations' transformative plan of action that addresses urgent global challenges over the next 15 years. The plan is based on 17 specific sustainable development goals.

The Canadian Classifications of Functions of Government is an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This release will be used in helping to measure the following goals:

  Note to readers

Government expenses can be presented by their main socioeconomic functions according to the Canadian Classifications of Functions of Government (CCOFOG). The information then provides an important picture of the role governments play in delivering services. This release focuses on the expansion of CCOFOG statistics to include functional expenses related to general public services, defence, economic affairs, housing and community affairs, health, and social protection. Data for all sub-divisions or classes are now available for the first time from 2008 to 2017 inclusively.

CCOFOG is a variant of the international functional expenditure classification that was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This information provides an important picture of the role governments play in delivering services and allows international comparisons regardless of organizational differences of governments.

The expansion of the CCOFOG program is a result of an ongoing collaborative process with specialized subject-matter partners and stakeholders. Continued data improvements will include the functionalization of capital expenditures and the consumption of fixed capital, which should be available in 2019. Currently, CCOFOG data excludes the acquisitions of non-financial assets and consumption of fixed capital expenses.

This release primarily focuses on provincial–territorial and local government (PTLG) since it permits data to be compared across provinces and territories. Consolidation takes into account differences in administrative structures and the delivery of government services by removing the effects of internal public sector transactions between jurisdictions.

Consolidated data are released for the PTLGs, which include provincial and territorial governments, health and social service institutions, universities and colleges, municipalities and other local public administrations, and school boards.

The constitutional framework of PTLGs in the territories differs from that in the provinces, leading to differences in the roles and financial authorities of government. These differences, as well as other geographic, demographic and socioeconomic dissimilarities between the North and the rest of Canada, give rise to marked disparities in government finance statistics.

Consolidated data are also released for the Canadian General Government, which combines federal government data with PTLG data, but excludes data for the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan.

Detailed groups of functional expenses are available on a non-consolidated basis for the federal government to allow the analysis of the role of central government in delivering services to Canadians.

Because PTLG finance statistics vary significantly across jurisdictions in Canada due to size differences, per capita data are used to allow comparisons. Per capita data are based on population estimates for Canada, the provinces and the territories, available in table 10-10-0005-01.

Annual 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, 2018 (fiscal year 2017/2018), are reported for the 2017 reference year.


The Canadian Government Finance Statistics 2014 classification structure is now available under the Related information module of our website.

Additional information can be found in the Latest Developments in the Canadian Economic Accounts (Catalogue number13-605-X). The User Guide: Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts (Catalogue number13-606-G) is also available. This publication has been updated with Chapter 9. Government sector accounts in the Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts.

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; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: