Alberta has never had more money coming in but debt continues to rise.
That’s got to stop, said Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
To drive home that message, the federation has taken its debt clock on the road this summer and made its 23rd stop of the 25-community tour in Red Deer on Saturday at the Public Market.
As Fildebrandt spoke the large digital display behind continued to increase steadily, a visual reminder to Albertans of the implications of not spending within our means.
The clock stands at about $10.1 billion, and is projected to increase by $4.7 billion in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
If spending isn’t brought under control debt will rise to $21 billion by 2016-17 and cost Albertans $1.4 billion a year in interest payments alone.
“That’s $1.4 billion that doesn’t build roads, schools or bridges, hire teachers or train nurses. It goes to the banks.”
With no end to Alberta’s growth in sight, not getting a handle on debt will mean servicing costs will “crowd out” other necessary spending.
“Government borrowing money is just borrowing prosperity from tomorrow. It’s borrowing taxes from the next generation.”
Besides raising awareness, the federation is also trying to get a firm pledge from MLAs to commit to tackling the debt.
Wherever they go, the federation asks local MLAs to sign its debt-free pledge, commit to honest budget reporting, balance the budget and come up with a plan to repay the existing debt.
So far, most of the Wildrose MLAs, including Sylvan Lake-Innisfail riding’s Kerry Towle, and a pair of Liberals have signed the pledge. None of the ruling Progressive Conservatives have signed.
Fildebrandt said Alberta is an enviable financial position and should not be facing debt issues.
“We have record revenues in the last few years. We’ve never had more money coming into government coffers in our history.
“The problem is we have never spent more in our history.”
More spending was necessary to keep pace with growth but the government has boosted spending far past growth rates, he said.
Many of those who have checked out the federation’s mobile clock are surprised by the number, which goes up by about $100 per second.
“The most common reaction is, ‘Thanks, for ruining my day,’” he said.
“People find it hard to believe that just a few years ago the debt clock was at zero, and in fact we had $17 billion in the bank in the sustainability fund.”
The debt clock went to Rocky Mountain House on Saturday afternoon and was to wrap up its tour in Airdrie later in the day.