The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s campaign to make the public aware of how much red ink the federal government is spilling into the budget books is a matter of ‘until debt do us park’.
The CTF’s digital debt clock made its second appearance in Leamington in less than three years, most recently as a display of how much the federal government is spending beyond its means. In late August of 2013, the same clock was decked out in provincial decals and lettering to illustrate to Leamington how quickly debt was piling up at the hands of the Ontario government. During its Thursday, July 14 stop at the Leamington Super Store and Giant Tiger parking lot on Talbot St. E., the clock displayed a Canadian federal debt of about $627,713,250,000.
The current national debt clock tour began June 6 in Victoria, B.C. before proceeding eastward until reaching Halifax, N.S. on July 8. The trailer-mounted clock and the pickup truck pulling it headed back west and made its way into Southern Ontario for the final leg of its journey. Leamington became the 94th of 100 stops on July 14, following Windsor and Amhurstburg and preceding Chatham and Woodstock. The entire tour has been conducted by driver and CTF federal director Aaron Wudrick, who was joined for the Ontario portion of the campaign by CTF Ontario director Christine Van Geyn.
The journey ended in Ottawa Monday, July 18 with a press conference led by Wudrick, a Kitchener resident. The trek carried him a distance of more than 12,000 kilometres.
“Federal and provincial debt are things people don’t think much about,” he said. “The debt clock is something we built to hit people in the face with, to make them think about it.”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is a non-partisan organization with about 89,000 supporters. The advocacy group first began undertaking its mission to pressure federal and provincial governments into accountability and responsible spending upon formation in 1990. Funded by free-will, non tax-receiptable donations, the group placed the trailer in storage in 1995 when Minister of Finance Paul Martin announced that the feds began paying down the national debt. The debt clock remained inactive for the following 13 years until 2008 — the only period in the past 50 years when the federal debt decreased instead of increasing.
“We actually had to find it before we could put it back on the road again,” Wudrick said. “Someone found it in Brantford.”
Representatives of the CTF have explained that the group has been concerned with the spending habits of both the Conservative party led by Stephen Harper and the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau that replaced it during the autumn of last year. Wudrick explained that the Trudeau government’s plan to add $10 billion to the deficit in each of its first three years before attempting to balance the budget afterwards has already proven unattainable. At the current rate, he noted, the addition to current federal debt will be $30 billion for each of the first three years.
“The problem is that there’s always incentive to spend and none to cut back,” Wudrick said. “That’s why we want pressure from Canadians to force them to balance the budget.”
Wudrick pointed out that last year, interest on the debt alone added $26 billion to what the nation owes — an amount exceeding what was spent on national defense despite favourable interest rates. Employment insurance discrepancies from region to region are what the CTF describes as a large source of the debt crisis, a situation that could save billions of dollars if a flat rate on premiums was put into effect. Wudrick also pointed at excessive public sector salaries as part of the problem. Another federal practice the federation opposes sternly is the financial support of private sectors, what Wudrick describers as “corporate welfare.”
“It’s a big issue to us — tax dollars are for public services, not private pockets.”
At the current national rate, about $1,000 is added to the national debt per second.
The CTF is however pleased with the directive of Minister of the Treasury Board Scott Brison, who the group says takes a firm stance on those wages while banning partisan advertisement spending.
At the provincial level, Ontario has very recently passed Quebec as having the highest per-capita debt load. The Ontario debt of just under $300 billion divides to more than $21,604 per resident.
“Where ever we go, the number one reaction is shock,” Wudrick said. “Everybody knows we’re in debt, but people are blown away by the size and speed of it. We look at it as a fairness issue for future generations — this isn’t something they should have to inherit. Issues like protecting the environment are important, but it’s important to protect ourselves from debt as well.”