Comprehensive Wealth in Canada 2018: Measuring what matters in the long term

You are here

Browse by:



October 2018
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

The report Comprehensive Wealth in Canada 2018: Measuring what matters in the long term tries to measure the comprehensive wealth in Canada. Comprehensive wealth in this report means the country's produced, natural, human, financial and social capital. The findings of the report suggest that the concerns for Canada's future in terms of comprehensive wealth is justified as the analysis demonstrates that the foundation of the GDP growth is fragile. 

The report concludes that Canada's development has been unsustainable for much of the period since 2008. As the sustainability of well-being comes down to maintaining the assets of the comprehensive portfolio and passing them on from one quarter to the next it is sensible to use comprehensive wealth as another lens on progress. Hence, the report suggests that the federal government should fund Statistics Canada to report on comprehensive wealth as this could be an essential new tool to guide decision making to ensure that the impacts on long-term well being are fully measured. 

Along with the way to measure comprehensive wealth this report shows the linkages between well-being, comprehensive wealth and sustainability. The main findings of the report include: 

  • Canada's human capital did not grow in real per capita terms from 1980 to 2015. 
  • Canada's investments in the produced capital became increasingly concentrated in housing and oil and gas extraction infrastructure. 
  • Canada's market natural assets declined in real per capita terms by 17 percent from 1980 to 2015.
  • Canada's key ecosystems declined in physical extent and became increasingly impacted by human development. 
  • The real per capita value of Canada'snet foreign financial assets grew more quickly than net foreign financial liabilities, with assets outstripping liabilities in 2015. 
  • Canadians households took on unprecedented levels of debt. 
  • Canada's social capital appeared to hold steady. 

The report recommends to: 

  • Continue addressing the challenges of climate change.
  • Diversify produced and natural capital
  • Encourage households to start lending again.
  • Pay greater attention to social capital. 
  • Measure and report comprehensive wealth.