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Ministère des Finances

Ministère des Finances

Debt concepts

Governments in Canada use a number of concepts of debt to measure indebtedness. Each concept has its own rationale. The Québec government provides information on each of these concepts in its budget papers.

Main debt concepts

The gross debt

Debt issued on financial markets


The government's commitments to state employee retirement plans and other future employee benefits.


The balance of Generations Fund

The concept of gross debt does not take into account the government’s assets, for example, fixed assets and investments.

Debt that has been applied to finance the acquisition of assets is much more acceptable than if it was used to finance current expenditure.

Debt representing accumulated deficits

Difference between the government's liabilities and assets.

The debt representing accumulated deficits corresponds to the government’s “bad debt”, i.e. the debt that does not correspond to any asset. It is often said that this is the debt incurred to “pay for the groceries”.

By way of analogy with an individual or a business’s net equity, the debt representing accumulated deficits represents the government’s “negative net equity”.

Other debt concepts

The net debt

The government's liabilities


Financial assets

The net debt is a concept that can be described as “intermediate”, i.e. it is situated between the gross debt and the debt representing accumulated deficits.

It represents the debt that has been used to finance capital investments as well as the “bad debt” that has been used to finance current expenditure.

The debt of the public sector

The government's gross debt


Hydro-Québec's debt


Municipalities' debt


Debt of other entities

This debt has been used to finance, among others:

  • Infrastructure
  • Roads
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Hydroelectric dams
  • Water treatment plants