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Articles by Livio Di Matteo

Historical Canadian Government Data Sources

July 7, 2019

I recently received the following message from Ryan MacDonald at Statistics Canada:
“I recently came upon a number [of] scans done by our library to place the historical publications into pdfs.  They can sometimes be a little difficult to search for, so I thought I would pass along a few links that may be of use to you or your colleagues in your research.”
So, I think a good way to further disseminate these historical economic data sources more broadly is to post the links here on WCI. Feel free to share.
Canada Year Book
http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.838186/publication.html
Tables of the trade and navigation of the Province of Canada for the year … (1850-1908)
http://www.publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.843286/publication.html
Report of the Department of Customs containing the

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Reflections on Westeros

May 20, 2019

Well, it is the May long weekend and a celebration of Queen Victoria but this year it has also coincided with the end of Game of Thrones and its own set of Kings, Queens and associated dysfunctional noble figures.  There has been a lot of angst expressed about how inadequate the final season has been in terms of plot and character development and the reviews are mixed, but I will leave such matters to others. I want to focus on some other things of a more economic and political nature.
Aside from the visuals of what appears to be a Rostowian pre-takeoff economy marked by low levels of productivity, low technology and a land centered economy with a feudal type of organization, remarkably little insight was offered over the eight seasons as to what the mechanics of the economy were that

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The Hospitalization Life Cycle

April 26, 2019

The Canadian Institute for Health Information has just released a report on Hospital Stays in Canada which provides a plethora of interesting tables on hospital stays in Canada at a national and provincial level.  Both the age-standardized hospitalization rate (per 100,000 population) and the age standardized average length of stay (in days) in Canada have fallen since 2013-14 going from 8,205 to 7,944 and 7.0 to 6.8 respectively.  The summary graphic for their report lists the top 5 reasons for inpatient hospitalizations as:1) Giving birth (362,700), 2) COPD and bronchitis (93,353), 2) Acute myocardial infarction (71,192), 4) Pneumonia (70,149) and 5) Heart failure (68,972) with the total number of inpatient hospitalizations in brackets beside each reason.  These five causes make up

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Guest Post: Comparing Technolgical Change in the Health and Taxi Industries

April 2, 2019

Well, here is a guest post forwarded to me by Ruolz Ariste – a colleague whom I originally met during my annual interactions with the CIHI and with whom I have co-authored.  Ruolz Ariste is currently pursuing a PhD in Industrial Relations in a program run by run jointly by Université Laval and Université du Québec en Outaouais.  Enjoy.

Comment
Ruolz AristeResearcher, U. Laval and UQOIndustrial Relations and Health Economics(Le français suit)
 The impact of technological improvement should be shared equitably in society: The case of the health sector and the taxi industry in QuebecTechnological improvement is present in different sectors of the economy. For example, in health, it has resulted in less invasive surgeries: less time for cataract, hip or knee surgeries. This means

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Hopefully, Tomorrow Won’t Be Yesterday

March 9, 2019

A short quick post.  Yesterday’s job numbers for Canada were greeted with surprise.  With 55,900 jobs added in February, the sentiment as best summarized by Doug Porter, Chief Economist with BMO Capital Markets is that: “The economy clearly is not falling off a cliff by any means, arguably quite the opposite”.  This is despite what seems to be a slowdown in the Canadian economy as indicated by consumer spending, exports and capital investment by business in 2018.  The more entertaining headline was by BNN Bloomberg which led with the Canadian labour market is off to its best start since 1981 as “The two-month gain is the best start to a year since 1981.” Of course, if the economy is doing so well one wonders why we are holding off on interest rate increases but I digress.
More to the

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The Federal Debt of the United States, 1791 to 2018: A Presidential Ranking

February 23, 2019

A recent story in the National Post by Tristan Hopper highlighted the “utterly unbelievable scale” of current US federal public debt levels.  As is always the case, it is useful to get some historical perspective on the evolution of the U.S. federal debt over time – which under President Trump has become the biggest U.S. nominal gross federal debt ever at about 22 trillion dollars.  It is also interesting to see how US federal debt levels have varied across assorted administrations over time.

Of course, there is always the issue of what metric to use.  Nominal debt is really not terribly helpful given changes in the size of the economy, inflation and population of the United States over time.  One could adjust for inflation and population and look at real per capita federal

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NAFTA – The “Worst” Trade Deal Ever

January 6, 2019

With time on my hands over the last week of the holiday season, I spent a bit more time than usual surfing news channels and watched a press conference by U.S. President Donald Trump in  which among other things he again reiterated how the United States had been hard done by NAFTA and that it was the worst trade deal ever.   Needless to say, while he has pronounced from the mount on this matter numerous times, for some reason it particularly annoyed me this time, so I decided to see what simple evidence could be mustered to weigh in on this point.

So, off to the IMF-WEO Database for some data on the US, Canadian and Mexican economies. The indicators I have mustered have generated four charts.  First, per capita GDP in current prices (PPP International dollars) for the years

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Becoming Sustainable: The Six Stages of Provincial-Territorial Government Health Spending

November 20, 2018

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has released its 22nd annual edition of  National Health Expenditure Trends covering the period 1975 to 2018 and the basic highlights are as follows:
Total health expenditure is expected to reach $253.5 billion or $6,839 per Canadian in 2018.
In 2018, total health expenditure is expected to rise by 4.2%, a slight increase in the rate of growth compared with earlier in the decade
Provincial per capita health expenditures vary with total health expenditure per capita expected to range from $7,552 in Alberta and $7,443 in Newfoundland and Labrador to $6,597 in British Columbia and $6,584 in Ontario.
Drugs expenditure growth is the fastest among 3 largest health spending categories with Hospitals (at 28.3% of spending), Drugs (at

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Australian Economic Growth in Longer Term Perspective

November 5, 2018

A recent issue of The Economist highlighted the stellar economic performance of Australia – or as it was termed, “The Wonder Down Under” – arguing its economy is most arguably the most successful in the rich world.  Australia has apparently not seen a recession for 27 years, seen its median income has grown four times as quickly as the United States and has low public debt.  The Economist attributes some of this to good luck – natural resource endowments – as well as proximity to Asian markets particularly China.  However, policy decisions are also seen as important with key ones being the reform of social spending – health care and pensions – shifting more of the burden of these systems onto users as well as a more enthusiastic immigration policy which has brought in many skilled

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Is the Russia-America Global CoDominium About to Begin?

July 20, 2018

In the wake of the Putin-Trump Helsinki summit, there is much speculation about what was actually said between Putin and Trump behind closed doors and the uncertainty spread throughout the American government about whether agreements had been reached on issues such as Syria and the Ukraine.  The subsequent invitation to Putin to visit the White house in the fall – probably just before the November elections – has resulted in further uncertainty especially after Putin’s statement that he proposed to Trump holding a referendum to resolve the eastern Ukraine issue.  So, what is really going on here?
Quite frankly, we have all been scratching our heads as the behaviour in some respects is reminiscent of 18th and 19th century monarchs gathering to decide the fate of wide swaths of the world

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Is the Russia-America Global CoDominium About to Begin?

July 20, 2018

In the wake of the Putin-Trump Helsinki summit, there is much speculation about what was actually said between Putin and Trump behind closed doors and the uncertainty spread throughout the American government about whether agreements had been reached on issues such as Syria and the Ukraine.  The subsequent invitation to Putin to visit the White house in the fall – probably just before the November elections – has resulted in further uncertainty especially after Putin’s statement that he proposed to Trump holding a referendum to resolve the eastern Ukraine issue.  So, what is really going on here?
Quite frankly, we have all been scratching our heads as the behaviour in some respects is reminiscent of 18th and 19th century monarchs gathering to decide the fate of wide swaths of the world

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Military Spending in the G7: A Quick Post NATO Summit Comparison

July 12, 2018

Well, the Disruptor-in-Chief, US President Donald Trump is at it again.  At today’s NATO summit he demanded that the members of NATO need to quickly increase their defence spending not only to meet the committed target of 2 percent of GDP but to also double their commitments to 4 percent of GDP.  Needless to say, all of this presented an opportunity to try and take a look at some of the numbers to see where things actually stand and to put the numbers into some kind of longer term perspective.
So, I have put together data on military spending, GDP and central government expenditure for the G-7 countries.  For Canada, I have data from Historical Statistics of Canada, the Urquhart and Statistics Canada GDP numbers and the Federal Fiscal Reference Tables.  For the other countries, the

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Military Spending in the G7: A Quick Post NATO Summit Comparison

July 12, 2018

Well, the Disruptor-in-Chief, US President Donald Trump is at it again.  At today’s NATO summit he demanded that the members of NATO need to quickly increase their defence spending not only to meet the committed target of 2 percent of GDP but to also double their commitments to 4 percent of GDP.  Needless to say, all of this presented an opportunity to try and take a look at some of the numbers to see where things actually stand and to put the numbers into some kind of longer term perspective.
So, I have put together data on military spending, GDP and central government expenditure for the G-7 countries.  For Canada, I have data from Historical Statistics of Canada, the Urquhart and Statistics Canada GDP numbers and the Federal Fiscal Reference Tables.  For the other countries, the

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Grain Transshipment at the Lakehead: A Canada Day Celebration

June 27, 2018

“Two towns stand on the shores of the Lake less than a mile apart.  What Lloyd’s is to shipping, or the College of Surgeons to medicine, that they are to the Wheat.”
Rudyard Kipling, Letters of Travel
Just in time for July 1st, there was a short ceremony and plaque unveiling today at the Western Grain By-Products Elevator Site on Kingston Street in Thunder Bay held by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada. The elevator is the former Fort William Elevator No. 10 which was built in 1913 at the peak of the Canadian wheat boom. The plaque is the outcome of a long period of lobbying and work by the Friends of Grain Elevators (check out the site for some spectacular overhead shots) and commemorates the role of the grain elevators and the grain shipping industry at

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Grain Transshipment at the Lakehead: A Canada Day Celebration

June 27, 2018

“Two towns stand on the shores of the Lake less than a mile apart.  What Lloyd’s is to shipping, or the College of Surgeons to medicine, that they are to the Wheat.”
Rudyard Kipling, Letters of Travel
Just in time for July 1st, there was a short ceremony and plaque unveiling today at the Western Grain By-Products Elevator Site on Kingston Street in Thunder Bay held by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada. The elevator is the former Fort William Elevator No. 10 which was built in 1913 at the peak of the Canadian wheat boom. The plaque is the outcome of a long period of lobbying and work by the Friends of Grain Elevators (check out the site for some spectacular overhead shots) and commemorates the role of the grain elevators and the grain shipping industry at

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Public Debt: A Global Perspective

May 29, 2018

There is much international preoccupation with debt at the public sector, household and corporate levels and the upward creep in interest rates does apparently keep central bankers – including our own Mr. Poloz – awake at night.  Given the problem is an international one, sometimes it is useful to try and get a global perspective on the numbers.  One report from a relatively new  outfit known as the Institute of International Finance (IIF) recently pegged the total amount of global debt at $237 trillion (USD) or well over 300 percent of the world’s annual economic output. According to one of their slides, in 2017 financial sector debt was $59 trillion, household debt $45 trillion, government debt $64 trillion and non-financial corporate debt $70 trillion.  This would make global public

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Public Debt: A Global Perspective

May 29, 2018

There is much international preoccupation with debt at the public sector, household and corporate levels and the upward creep in interest rates does apparently keep central bankers – including our own Mr. Poloz – awake at night.  Given the problem is an international one, sometimes it is useful to try and get a global perspective on the numbers.  One report from a relatively new  outfit known as the Institute of International Finance (IIF) recently pegged the total amount of global debt at $237 trillion (USD) or well over 300 percent of the world’s annual economic output. According to one of their slides, in 2017 financial sector debt was $59 trillion, household debt $45 trillion, government debt $64 trillion and non-financial corporate debt $70 trillion.  This would make global public

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Addressing Ontario’s Fiscal Challenges

May 2, 2018

While 2017-18 saw a surplus of $642 million after years of deficits, the 2018-19 Ontario budget now projects a deficit of $6.7 billion and a net provincial debt of $325 billion with deficits projected to continue for five years afterwards.  If one considers the recent report of the Auditor-General, then Ontario’s deficit may be even larger at $11.7 billion.  Furthermore, the Ontario government has committed to spending more on public infrastructure and as a result can be expected to add at least another $156 billion to its net debt bringing it near $500 billion dollars by 2026-27.  This will add substantially to provincial government debt charges even if interest rates remain at historic lows.  There are a number of measures that Ontario’s provincial government could adopt in an effort

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Addressing Ontario’s Fiscal Challenges

May 2, 2018

While 2017-18 saw a surplus of $642 million after years of deficits, the 2018-19 Ontario budget now projects a deficit of $6.7 billion and a net provincial debt of $325 billion with deficits projected to continue for five years afterwards.  If one considers the recent report of the Auditor-General, then Ontario’s deficit may be even larger at $11.7 billion.  Furthermore, the Ontario government has committed to spending more on public infrastructure and as a result can be expected to add at least another $156 billion to its net debt bringing it near $500 billion dollars by 2026-27.  This will add substantially to provincial government debt charges even if interest rates remain at historic lows.  There are a number of measures that Ontario’s provincial government could adopt in an effort

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Natural Resources, Living Standards and Inequality

April 19, 2018

Kevin Milligan had an op-ed in the Globe and Mail a few days ago drawing the link between natural resource development, middle class incomes and inequality.  The point essentially was: “Without income derived from the resource boom, Canadian inequality and the well-being of the Canadian middle class would be much worse than we’ve experienced.”  The point was being made with reference to the current pipeline debate and the consequences of erecting barriers to the transportation of resources to market.  Erecting barriers in the end would result in less resource development and by extension fewer good jobs that would diminish “the income source that has best shielded the Canadian middle class from the harsh economic forces that are increasing inequality in other countries. For Canadians

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Another Picture That Will Define Ontario Politics for the Next Four Years

March 18, 2018

Ontario is getting a Throne Speech this week and a budget next week and these events will set the stage for the June election.  In her recent post, Frances drew attention to the province’s public finances via the public sector wage bill and the public-private sector wage differential and that cutting the public sector wage bill may certainly be an option pursued in the future.   This is because the province has accumulated a large public debt that given the prospects for an economic slowdown and/or rising interest rates will potentially increase fiscal pressure via debt service costs which in 2016-17 totaled  $11.7 billion or just over 8 percent of total government spending.  That is more than what is being spent to fund the provinces post-secondary education and training system (The

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The Balance of the Federation: Canada 1870 to 2016

February 17, 2018

My contribution to Maclean’s 2018 Chartapalooza was a plot of the federal government’s share of total government expenditure in Canada since 1870.  The chart showed that until World War I, with the exception of period marked by the building of the federally subsidized CPR, the federal share of total government spending in Canada was approximately 40 percent. After the peak of over 70 percent reached during World War I, the federal share came down quickly but went up again during the Depression era and soared during World War II reaching over 90 percent. The federal share of spending came down more gradually after World War II—leveling off at almost 50 percent during the 1970s and 1980s before falling once again to about 40 percent during the 1990s.
However, this chart can be improved

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Donald Trump is a Mercantilist

January 14, 2018

A lot of ink is being spilled on Donald Trump and his America First approach to trade negotiations which has generated considerable trepidation and angst in both Ottawa and Mexico City as NAFTA appears headed for termination. Donald Trump is obsessed with the concept of trade deficits – which the United States does have on an overall basis. If one is to take President Trump at his word, he believes that if the United States sold more to the rest of the world than it imported from them, the country’s economy and manufacturing sector would be better off.
He appears to feel that the trade deficit is bad for the economy even though the evidence over time demonstrates that US GDP has grown at the same time that its trade deficit has grown. True, some sectors have done better than others and

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The Long Restructuring of Ontario’s Health Spending

December 13, 2017

Ontario’s hospital sector has made a submission to the provincial finance committee making the case that overcrowding has become so serious that there is a need for more funding.  They are seeking a 4.55 percent increase in operating funds for the 2018-19 fiscal year in their pre budget submission.  According to numbers calculated from data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information(CIHI), over the period 2010 to 2017, the average annual growth of nominal provincial government hospital spending in Ontario has been 1.9 percent while provincial government health spending as a whole has averaged 2.6 percent.
Part of what is going on here is the usual maneuvering for more funds as part of any budgetary process which this year is expected to be a bit more active given that Ontario

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So What Happens in the Next Recession?

November 24, 2017

I’m not a macro economist by any stretch of the imagination and yet I cannot help wondering what is going to happen in terms of policy response the next time Canada goes into a downturn.  It is not a question of whether there will be another recession, only when. By policy response, I am of course wondering about the traditional tools used to affect aggregate demand such as fiscal and monetary policy.

The economy is still performing quite well given the most recent indicators such as an unemployment rate at 6.3 percent and the economy still adding jobs, real GDP in the second quarter of 2017 up by an annualized 4.5 percent and both the manufacturing and retail sales indicators up in September.  Yet, there are some signs of a slowdown with August’s real GDP growth showing a

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Provincial Government Health Spending: The Force Awakens?

November 12, 2017

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) recently released its 2017 edition of its National Health Expenditure Trends and its worth a trip to its website for the downloadable data on all things related to health spending.  I’ve been on an advisory group to the CIHI with respect to its national health expenditures for a number of years now and I always enjoy the release of the product and the assorted materials provided that can shed light on recent trends in health spending. 
The last few years have seen a flattening out of real per capita ($1997) provincial government health spending and a fall in growth rates as Figures 1 and 2 show.  However, after a decline from 2010 to 2014 that saw real per capita provincial government health spending fall from $2,589 to $2,508 – a

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Health Spending and System Characteristics in Canada and Spain

October 1, 2017

I gave a talk at Memorial University in Newfoundland & Labrador last week sponsored by the Department of Economics and the Collaborative Allied Research in Economics Initiative (CARE). My talk was based on joint research currently underway with David Cantarero Prieto at the University of Cantabria in Spain comparing the determinants of government health spending in Canada and Spain and particularly the role of physicians as a factor in that spending.

Briefly, the presentation studied the impact of physicians on health care expenditure and its dynamics over time in Canada and Spain for two overlapping time-spans of provincial/regional data availability: Canada, 1981 to 2013 and Spain, 2002 to 2013. Regression analysis found that physician numbers were a statistically significant

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Looking for a University President

September 2, 2017

“Some people think that a college president’s life is full of joys and a host of friends. I know that he frequently walks in sorrow and alone because of the times he must do what seems impossible.” Paul V. Sangren (1948) “What a President Learns” Journal of Higher Education, 19, 6, 287-288.
Well, my university is looking for a new President and Vice-Chancellor and the process of consultation has begun in terms of establishing what opportunities, issues and challenges awaits the new President as well as what characteristics and experience they should possess. A search company has been selected so if you are interested feel free to contact Laverne Smith and Associates Inc. at [email protected] In the interim, a few thoughts come to mind about what being a university

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Balancing Ontario’s Budget…In 1875

August 11, 2017

We often long for simpler times and search for them in our not so distant past. As an economist that does public finance and economic history, the public accounts of the past can offer me an interesting diversion. Governments, at any time in history always take in revenues and make payments and the budgets and public accounts of the past offer insights into what the pressing issues of the time were. A case in point, the public accounts of Ontario in 1875.

The fiscal year was different back then going from January 1st to December 31st making the fiscal year coincident with the calendar year. In 1875, Adam Crooks (1827-1885) was the Treasurer of Ontario and the premier was Oliver Mowat – it was a Liberal administration. According to one account, “He had no previous experience with matters

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Understanding Softwood Lumber: Another View

July 9, 2017

As we move into the latest iteration of the ongoing softwood lumber dispute with the United States, I thought it might be useful to look at some data to see if any additional insight can be gained. The conventional wisdom on the story is that the disagreements have been over the way the two countries treat their respective lumber industries. In Canada the provincial governments mainly own the resource and the harvesting price or stumpage fees are set by administrative regulation. In the US the resource is owned privately with harvest prices set by markets. The United States claims that the stumpage fees in Canada are set too low and constitute a subsidy – hence the source of the dispute.

Of course, this difference in ownership of the natural resource has been the case since 1867 and there

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