By Neil Corbett and Kurt Langmann, Black Press
Somewhere on the trip from Victoria to Abbotsford, the National Debt Clock ticked over from $559 billion to an even $560,000,000,000.By the time the touring members of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation had set up the clock in the Phoenix Lounge on Wednesday evening, the train of zeroes were gone, replaced by other numerals as millions of dollars more had been tacked on.The huge clock tabulates the federal debt in glaring orange digits, adding $124 million per day.Through most of the 1990s, the mounting national debt was a worrisome issue for economists, and the CTF was among those sounding the alarm, calling for less government spending.“In the 1990s, nothing was a more powerful symbol than this clock,” said Gregory Thomas, B.C. communications director for the CTF.Now the refurbished clock is on a cross-Canada tour – the message the same as it was 14 years ago.“The feds balanced the budget in 1997, and up until 2008 they had paid off $105 billion of the national debt,” said Thomas. “In less than two years they have borrowed it all back.”At present, the federal debt is equivalent to $16,500 for every Canadian man, woman and child.And it’s not much better on the provincial level, which stands at $10,000 for every B.C. resident. The total provincial debt will reach $47 billion this year, and $60 billion by 2014, said Thomas.Currently, the federal government is paying $93 million a day in interest, and the B.C. government will pay $2.12 billion in interest on the provincial debt in the coming year.The clock has been mounted inside a trailer and is taking the message across Canada. It left Victoria on Tuesday, and the tour winds up at the end of March in Halifax.“We want to see leadership across the political spectrum to stand up and commit to addressing the serious issue that is our provincial debt,” said Thomas. “Leadership is about making tough choices and the longer we wait to address the problem, the choices get even tougher.”There is also a dedicated campaign web page at DebtClockTour.ca that includes an interactive map of the clock’s travels with daily postings, ways to contact lawmakers, a petition, and a debt clock widget that can be downloaded to a website or handheld device.