Have we dodged it, or merely delayed a reckoning that we’ll have to face in the future anyway?
To hear our federal and provincial governments talk about it, everything’s fine at home. There are economic problems, but they’re all imported. Woes in Europe and the United States are reducing sales and tax revenues, but the fundamentals are good and we’re supposed to be a rare commodity — a nation that’s somehow avoided the real problems of the international financial collapse.
That might be a nice sentiment.
But everything’s not fine at home.
At home, Canadians are carrying more consumer debt than ever before, and instead of worrying about that, with each passing month we dig ourselves in deeper.
Our governments aren’t immune from that either. We’re living in the shadow of a growing deficit in this province, despite windfall oil revenues, and we’re preparing (for better or worse) for substantial new debt.
Federally, it looks like we have unlearned every lesson we ever had about belt tightening — while letting corporate tax rates shrink and corporate coffers grow.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) issued a news release Friday that said Canada’s debt clock is about to reach a frightening milestone.
At three seconds before 11:19 p.m. tonight, the nation’s debt will cross the $600-billion mark, a sign that, in the world of financing today with tomorrow’s dollars, we’re certainly keeping up with the Joneses. Heck, we passed those Joneses and bought ourselves an outdoor pool, no payments until 2014.
The truth is, people talk tough about government spending — about restraint in general — unless it is actually going to apply to themselves. People want savings, but they don’t want hospital wait times to increase, don’t want to see potholes on the road, expect snowplows on the highway at all times and expect their quality of life to be maintained.
It’s everyone else’s belts that are supposed to feel that critical tightening, while individuals let theirs out a notch or two.
But the scariest part of where our national debt is now isn’t today’s $600-billion milestone. It isn’t even the way our debt is increasing by $74 million every single day, although that’s scary enough. It’s not even that the federal government expects deficit spending to stretch out for years.
The scariest part, especially for those who remember the late 1990s and the heartaches of that particular period of layoffs and downsizing, is that all that hard work has vanished.
“After a decade of Canadians paying down our debt, reducing it by more than $100 billion dollars between 1997 and 2008, the Harper government has borrowed back every penny and more,” CTF federal director Gregory Thomas writes. “As of (today), the Harper government will have added $142.4 billion to our national debt, taking it past the $600 billion mark.”
And the debts keep piling up.
We have to temper our expectations — our
personal expectations and the expectations we have of our governments. Or else our expectations are going to temper our future — and our children’s futures as well.