Canada’s debt clock is out of mothballs — and that should serve as a warning to all Canadians that things are not as they should be, says B.C.’s director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.
For the first time in a decade and a half, the digital clock which toured Canada in the early 1990s scrolling numbers at a dizzying speed as the national debt climbed, is back on the road and on its way to Langley.
“We reached a substantial economic crisis in the early ’90s, with the last major recession,” said Gregory Thomas of the CTF — the organization mounting the cross-Canada clock campaign, which will begin in Victoria on Tuesday.
“Close to one quarter of every tax dollar went to paying interest on the federal debt,” Thomas said.
“The government of Canada achieved a balanced budget, and the national debt was substantially reduced through most of the first 10 years of this century.”
Since then, the country has managed to borrow back every penny that was paid off, he said.
“As of March 17, we will have erased all the progress we made.”
That’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100 billion, he said.
The debt clock, which was stored in a barn after its last tour ended, was spotted in late 2010, in a state of disrepair at the side of a road in Ontario, Thomas said.
“One of our supporters recognized it from 15 years earlier.”
He got in touch with members of the CTF, who decided it was time to roll it out once more, in an effort to raise awareness among Canadians of just how bad things can potentially get.
After being refurbished in London, Ont. the clock was taken to Regina, to be outfitted with a trailer before beginning its cross-Canada journey from Mile Zero of the Trans Canada Highway — which it is scheduled to do on Feb. 22.
But the more people who show up and sign the petition, the stronger the message that will be sent to Ottawa and Victoria, he added.
Thomas points to the financial and political chaos in such places Greece and north Africa, as examples of what can happen when a nation allows its spending to spiral out of control.
“You realize just how quickly things can get out of hand when you lose track of basic principles, like paying your way,” he said.
“We know from our own (household) budgets that if you keep borrowing to cover your debt, you’re soon going to be in a heap of trouble.”
Right now, he said, there is tremendous complacency in Canada, because the situation isn’t as bad as it is in the U.S., Greece or Portugal, for example.
And it’s not just a problem at the national level, he said.
Since it was elected, the current government of B.C. has added $14 billion to the provincial debt, Thomas noted.
Whether you’re a provincial Liberal, a federal Conservative or waiting for the Rhinoceros Party make a comeback, mounting government debt is every Canadian’s concern, Thomas said.
“It doesn’t matter what your politics happen to be. Our supporters are fairly evenly distributed between political parties.
“They may differ on tax and spend rates, but they all agree that borrowing and spending is not a good idea.”
Go to debtclock.ca to learn more, to help fund the campaign or to sign the online petition.
On Wednesday, Feb. 23, it will arrive in Langley, where it will be on display at 3:30 p.m. outside Township Hall. The public is invited to stop by to see the clock and sign a petition, demanding financial reform.
“We know it’s a lot to ask people to take time out of their day,” Thomas said.