Every day, as Alberta’s debt climbs higher, Derek Fildebrandt sees his children’s future being eroded. Unwilling to be silent, he goes from town to town, bringing behind him the debt clock.
The specially manufactured trailer has a digital clock that ticks upward, showing the debt in live time as it increases. It, and Fildebrandt, were in Stettler last Tuesday, July 15, parked out front of the Town of Stettler office.
“Since Thursday evening (July 10) we’ve borrowed another $61 million,” Fildebrandt, Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Alberta director, said. “We are now borrowing $4.7 billion every single year. By 2016 our debt is going to hit $21 billion and we’re going to be paying $1.4 billion a year in interest payments.”
“We’re here to raise alarm about our return to debt,” Fildebrandt said. “Ten years after our debt was paid in full, we’re $10 billion in debt.”
The debt works out to roughly $2,500 per Alberta resident, the clock’s screens displayed.
The money being spent now is something the province can’t afford, Fildebrandt said, and it’s money his children – and the children of the young adults of the province now – will be paying in the future.
“It’s not ethical” to borrow from our children, Fildebrandt said, as the clock continued to tick upward.
“We (the province) used to be a shining example of fiscal responsibility,” he noted, but added that billions in interest is simply going to be “flushed down the toilet.”
Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman met with Fildebrandt outside the town office, signing a contract with the constituency promising that the actions he takes, as an MLA, will be made with the goal of reducing debt – and should the Wildrose Party ever form government, he’ll work to keep his party on track in that regard.
One of the things the federation hopes to see the campaign push forward is the “return to honest (budget) reporting,” Fildebrandt noted. He said the math and reporting methods used by the government is deliberately chosen to hide the increasing debt.
The problem is cyclical, Fildebrandt noted. When one government takes over from another, or the problem of debt becomes so big, there’s an austerity budget. Once that’s paid off, or sometimes when another government comes in, the spending begins again and debt is accrued. For that to stop, there has to be a change in thinking, he added.
“It doesn’t need to be radical,” he said. “Running a deficit in both good and bad times just needs to stop.”
He added that the province should, when times are good, work at building up its savings account so that when times are bad, there’s less need to borrow.
While MLAs from the Wildrose and Liberal parties have signed on to the Federation’s debt-reduction pledge, no Conservative MLAs have done so – something Fildebrandt said he found disappointing.
“It’s a sad thing, for the party that wiped out our debt, not one will sign,” he said.
“A decade of austerity becomes inevitable with spending like this.”