The national debt now totals more than $616 billion

ELECTION 2015: Courtenay-Alberni candidates discuss the national debt

Is there a fix for our $616 billion national debt?

How many water systems could be upgraded, how many more surgeries performed, how many things could a federal government do with an extra $26 billion a year in its coffers?

Canada’s national debt sits at roughly $616 billion, according to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF). In the year 2000, it was roughly $550 billion. In 1990, it was about $336 billion.

While the national debt — and what the parties propose to do about it — isn’t likely to be considered a sexy issue for TV news or Twitter, the CTF says it believes it’s something Canadian voters should consider when they mark their ballot in the federal election on Oct. 19.

“It’s important because I don’t think a lot of people realize we spent $26 billion on interest payments on the debt last year,” said CTF federal director Aaron Wudrick. “The sooner we pay off the debt the sooner we will be able to use the interest money on other priorities.”

John Duncan is the Conservative candidate in the Courtenay-Alberni riding that includes Parksville Qualicum Beach. He has been an MP in the ruling party for a decade.

“Prior to the financial meltdown of 2008, the Conservative government paid down on the debt, we then responded to the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression and now we have returned to a balanced budget,” Duncan told

The NEWS. “We have come a long way to make sure our economy is protected by a balanced budget so that we are ready to face whatever comes our way. Canada posted a $5 billion surplus for the first three months of this fiscal year, which ensures that we are on track to balance the budget this year.”

New Democractic Party candidate Gord Johns said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen $60 billion in tax giveaways for big corporations and millions more in tax breaks for CEOs and subsidies to oil companies. Johns said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has chosen to continue Harper’s tax giveaways.

“New Democrats have different priorities — we’re going to make corporations pay their fair share instead of saddling future generations with more debt,” said Johns. “(NDP Leader) Tom Mulcair’s plans to stimulate the economy by investing in $15 a day childcare, breaking up gridlock with major investments in public transit and infrastructure and lifting thousands of seniors out of poverty are fully-costed and do not rely on expanding the national debt.”

Duncan said he doesn’t believe that strategy will work.

“It makes no sense to propose major new spending, which the NDP and Liberals have proposed to put us back into deficit, raise taxes and add to our national debt,” said Duncan.

Green Party candidate Glenn Sollitt said his party is committed to fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, with an aim to reducing the national debt.

“The Green Party Platform is founded upon a five-year, fully-costed and reviewed budget that targets debt reduction of over $30 billion,” said Sollitt.  “Specifically, debt reduction will be obtained through measures including elimination of some industrial tax credits and subsidies, closing tax haven loopholes, increasing large corporate taxes and reducing government advertising. I support a disciplined schedule to gradually pay down the debt while maintaining public services and programs that meet immediate social and environmental needs.”

Liberal Party candidate Carrie Powell-Davidson said her party’s team has what it takes to tackle the growing national debt.

“The Liberal Party has the right team, made up of the right people to take on the vacuum that has been left by the Conservative government,” said Powell-Davidson. “There is a reason why Canada has a federal government; it is not to be an idle observer of the passing scene but to do something about it when there are problems.  This is how a Liberal government will approach the massive debt Canada has accumulated over the years, a problem that requires an immediate, real plan for change.”

Barbra Biley is the Marxist-Leninist Party candidate in Courtenay-Alberni and she suggested additional ways to raise revenue and direct the economy include public control of the wholesale sector and financial institutions.

“Government debt exists because it serves the politics of paying the rich,” said Biley. “To suggest government does not have enough revenue to finance its investments and must borrow from private individuals and institutions covers up the reality that government refuses to build a public economic base from which it can realize revenue to meet necessary investments.”

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