Debt Servicing Costs

Understanding The Costs of Paying Your Debts: A Comprehensive Guide

In the world of finance, Understanding Debt Servicing Costs plays a pivotal role. This article will delve deep into this important subject, examining its impact on both governmental and personal finances.

The Concept of Debt Servicing Costs

Debt servicing costs refer to the total amount of money a borrower is required to pay over time to completely pay off their debt. This includes the principal – the actual amount borrowed – and the interest accrued.

The Canadian Scenario: A Case Study

Canada, like many other nations, grapples with the challenge of managing its national debt, a challenge that has only intensified since the 2008 financial crisis1.

The Burden of National and Provincial Debt

Canada’s national debt skyrocketed by $150 billion post-recession, with additional provincial debts amounting to $217 billion. This has led to increased debt servicing costs.

Debt-to-GDP Ratio: A Crucial Metric

The debt-to-GDP ratio is a critical measure of a country’s economic health. This ratio indicates the percentage of a country’s GDP that goes towards paying off its debt. In Canada, this ratio varies across provinces.

Province Debt-to-GDP Ratio (2013-14)
Quebec 50%
Ontario 38.4%
Nova Scotia 37.7%

The federal government aims to reduce this ratio to 25% in the coming years.

Factors Influencing Provincial Debt

Several elements contribute to the variation in provincial debt loads, including changes in federal health-transfers formula and education costs. Moreover, demographic challenges like the shrinking ratio of young workers, who are primarily responsible for covering the costs of an ageing population, also add to the financial strain.

The High Price of Debt Servicing

According to the Fraser Institute, combined government debt servicing costs exceed $60 billion annually in Canada, an amount equivalent to the cost of funding the country’s elementary and high schools.


“Ontario and Quebec will have great difficulty servicing their outstanding debt as interest rates increase.”


This statement underscores the severity of the situation, especially given that a one-point hike in interest rates would cost the Ontario government an additional $400 million.

To Reduce Deficit or Invest in Infrastructure?

This question represents another aspect of the debt debate. While infrastructure spending is necessary to support growing urbanisation, it also adds to the debt.

The Rising Debt Post-Recession

The post-recession debt among Canadian governments, particularly those east of Manitoba, is already staggering. There are concerns that normalising interest rates could lead to debilitating debt-servicing costs.

The Question of Infrastructure Debt

There’s also the question of which level of government should shoulder the debt required to address the country’s infrastructure deficit. Municipalities and provinces currently pay higher interest rates than the federal government, leading some to argue that such debt should be federally managed.

Preparing for Interest Rate Hikes

Canadian federal and provincial governments are bracing for inevitable interest rate hikes, striving to secure low rates for debt-servicing before the increase.

Long-Term Bonds: A Strategy

The federal government is pondering over issuing another round of 50-year bonds, a strategy it initiated last year, to raise funds at yields below 3 percent. Quebec and Ontario are also extending the average maturity of their debt.

Avoiding Unmanageable Debt

Managing debt effectively to avoid exorbitant servicing costs is essential, not just for governments but also for businesses and individuals.


“Our estate managers and trustees at Harris & Partners Inc. have the training and experience needed to deal with personal and business debt management.”


To learn more about managing debt effectively, consider visiting one of our hundreds of locations across Canada, or give us a call today at 1-877-879-4770.

In conclusion, Understanding Debt Servicing Costs is crucial for effective financial management at both the governmental and personal level. As interest rates rise, managing these costs becomes even more critical, making it an essential area of focus for anyone involved in finance.

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