Gregory Thomas

Debt clock keeps on ticking as it’s rolled through Kelowna

The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation Debt Clock passed through Kelowna Friday.

And during the short time it was here, it recorded thousands of more dollars the federal government owes.

The clock, first used in the 1990s and rescued recently from a barn in rural Ontario where it was being used as a billboard, is the latest attempt by the CTF to publicize the spending habits of the federal government.

“From 1997 to 2008, $100 billion (of debt) was paid off,” said Gregory Thomas, B.C. communications director for the federation. “But in the last two years, it has almost all been borrowed back.”

According to the debt clock, the current national debt stands at more than $560 billion and growing by the second. That’s more than 16,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada.

Thomas said the debt clock is currently traveling across the country, having started its trip in Victoria last Tuesday.

Mounted on a trailer and pulled by an SUV, the clock will stop along its journey to Newfoundland between now and the end of March, including a ceremonial stop in Ottawa.

But one place it will not be allowed to stop is at the very place where the decisions that lead to Canada’s debt load are made — Parliament Hill.

Thomas said on Friday the federation was told it will not be allowed to park on Parliament Hill because the generator that powers the clock could leak fuel.

As for ways to reduce the debt, the CTF is advocating a more aggressive repayment plan than the minority Conservative government is currently employing.

Thomas said the federation has proposed a series of cuts to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty but he considered them “too Draconian.”

But Thomas said history can teach the Tories a lesson. He said after years of not dealing with the debt, the Liberals under former prime minister Jean Chretien were forced to address it and the cuts his then-finance minister Paul Martin made, were very tough.

“They were a lot tougher, and you (may) argue stupid cuts that did not have to be made,” said Thomas.

Before the federal government can deal with the current national debt, it has to wrestle Canada’s annual deficit of $50 billion down. Ottawa says it is currently working through a plan to do that over the next four years.

Meanwhile, it is paying off some debt and plans to make bigger payments when the budget is balanced.

awaters@kelownacapnews.com