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Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s federal debt clock rolls up and through Okanagan-Shuswap

Organization hopes to raise alarm over more than $1 trillion national debt
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Franco Terrazzano and the organization’s travelling federal debt clock, a digital counter that shows the national debt going up in real time, stopped in Salmon Arm, Vernon and Kelowna on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Franco Terrazzano hopes the numbers rapidly rolling upwards on the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s (CTF) federal debt clock raise alarms among people across the country.

At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, Terrazzano, federal director with the CTF, was in Salmon Arm with the large digital federal debt counter mounted to the side of a cube van.

Terrazzano explained he and his team are taking the van and “brand new” CTF debt clock coast to coast to sound the alarm over runaway deficits and debt.

“I said ‘brand new’ because the federal government actually broke our last debt clock,” said Terrazzano, explaining the former CTF debt clock was analogue and wasn’t able to display the current $1.1 trillion federal debt.

“It’s going up by abut $400 million every single day, or about $4,5o0 every second, which means that each Canadian is already on the hook for about $30,000 in federal government debt,” said Terrazzano, adding this year taxpayers will lose out on $25 billion just to pay interest on the government’s debt. “That’s money that can’t stay in Canadian’s pockets because it’s going to the bond fund managers.”

Asked about solutions the CTF might have for the federal government to rein in debt, Terrazzano said in February the CTF gave a 75-page pre-federal budget submission to a federal finance committee showing how the government could balance the budget in 2023-24 “simply by bringing spending down to pre-pandemic levels and adjusting upward for inflation and population growth.”

Read more: EDITORIAL: Canada’s $1 trillion national debt

Read more: Statistics Canada says Canadian economy grew 4.6% in 2021

To do this, Terrazzano said the submission focuses on a wide range of things, including pay raises for Members of Parliament.

“In April 1, (MPs) will have given themselves their third pay raise during the pandemic, while so many people have struggled with pay cuts, job losses and business losses,” he said.

The CTF is also critical of equalization payments to the provinces, and has called for an end to corporate welfare.

“We’ve identified $18 billion worth of corporate welfare announcements between 2017 and 2021,” said Terrazzano. “That’s the type of picking winners and losers, playing investment banker with tax dollars that we are recommending against.”

Another target of the CTF is something Terrazzano referred to as “political party welfare.”

“When the pandemic first started they brought out the wage subsidy to help struggling businesses – restaurants, gym owners – to keep the lights on,” said Terrazzano. “That was meant to help businesses deal with government lockdowns. It wasn’t meant for political parties. But every single political party in the House of Commons, except for the Bloc, took the wage subsidy. Provincial parties as well, some of them, and it ended up costing taxpayers $3.7 million. We’re recommending the federal government pay those monies back to the taxpayer.”

Another suggestion made in the submission is to defund the CBC.

“That’s nearly $1.4 billion annually,” said Terrazzano. “We believe all Canadians should be able to choose with their own money which organizations they want to support.”

Terrazzano said the plan is to have the van in Halifax by the time the federal budget is done.

Asked if the debt clock ever rolls back, Terrazzano laughed, noting it has not.

The CTF describes itself as a “not-for-profit citizen’s group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste and accountable government.” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney served as the CTF’s CEO in the early 1990s. According to the CTF, it raised $4.8 million in 2020-2021 “on the strength of 39,792 donations.” However, the CTF doesn’t publish donors’ names or the amounts they give.

This story was updated on Thursday, March 17, 2020.
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