Federal debt hits $600B Saturday, taxpayers group says

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says federal debt will pass a milestone Saturday, and used that to call for the Harper government to begin spending within its means.

Debt still well below 1997 peak in real terms

Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Gregory Thomas said Friday that the Federal Debt will cross the $600 billion mark tomorrow. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the federal debt will pass a milestone Saturday, and used that to call for the Harper government to begin spending within its means.

Federation director Gregory Thomas said the national debt will reach $600 billion just seconds before 11:19 p.m. ET.

That works out to nearly $17,200 for each person in the country.

At the current rate, Canada's national debt is rising by $74.6 million a day, or $863.27 every second.

The federation said it applauds finance minister Jim Flaherty's commitment to balance the budget before the next election.

Still, Flaherty acknowledged last month that the fallout from the recession will prevent Ottawa from erasing the national deficit as early as previously promised.

The minister said the government continues to search for ways to cut spending as he prepares a 2013 budget.

But as with previous budgets, Flaherty has ruled out both tax increases and cuts to provincial transfers.

Thomas said Canada would not have a deficit had the Conservatives not decided to spend billions of dollars to dig the country out of the recession that began in 2008.

The stimulus spending was unnecessary, Thomas told a Friday news conference.

"The economy bounced back and ... we're going to be paying those stimulus dollars 20, 30 years from now if we don't get our act together."

Federation targets advertising budget

But much of it was wasteful, said Thomas, who took particular aim at the government's advertising spending.

"You can't sit through a football game without seeing all this propaganda about what a terrific job the government's doing," he said.

"They're borrowing money to sell Canadians on themselves."

The federal debt last peaked in 1997 at $563 billion, a figure that then represented almost two thirds of the country’s economic output. Adjusting for inflation, that number would be worth almost $760 billion today.

At $600 billion, today’s debt is about 46 per cent of GDP.

The government says the spending under its so-called economic action plan was necessary to maintain and create jobs during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

With files from The Canadian Press