The Ontario Debt Clock tour rolled into Chatham Tuesday afternoon, stopping in front of the Civic Centre on King Street West.
The debt clock, which displays Ontario’s provincial debt at $257 billion and ticking higher, is used by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) to draw public attention to government spending.
Candice Malcolm, CTF’s Ontario director, said the province’s debt is rising by $372 per second, or more than $22,000 per minute.
In addition to the provincial debt, the clock displays the per capita debt.
As of Tuesday, the amount owed by Ontario is more than $19,000 per person.
“We’re trying to send a message to Queen’s Park that this era of governance – spending way beyond your means and asking future generations of taxpayers to fund the bills – ultimately is not sustainable and is not fair to taxpayers,” said Malcolm.
She was particularly critical of the Liberal government’s green energy strategy.
“The idea of giving corporate welfare to big companies to change the way that they produce energy hasn’t worked out the way the government wanted and the cost of hydro is going up,” said Malcolm.
She added that Clean Energy Benefit, which is aimed at subsidizing household and small business energy bills by 10%, costs $1 billion per year.
Malcolm cited a bloated bureaucracy as another area of concern that contributes to the debt.
“From high wages of government employees, pensions and all these compensation packages, these are far more lucrative than taxpayers themselves get,” she said.
According to the CTF, paying interest on the debt is the third-largest expense in the Ontario budget, and is the fastest-growing expenditure in the province.
“We’re hoping Ontario will wake up to the fact that we have to stop it now,” said Rick Nicholls, Conservative MPP for Chatham-Kent-Essex, while speaking to the media at the Chatham stop. “We all have to chip in and do our part in order turn the economy around and turn Ontario around.”
Nicholls said creating jobs is the key to strengthening the economy and reducing the debt.
Echoing Malcolm’s comments, Nicholls noted that higher energy costs are hurting businesses.
“With no businesses, we have no jobs and the debt continues to climb because people don’t want cutbacks in (government) services,” he said.
Chatham-Kent was one of the last stops on the CTF’s tour of the debt clock, which is 12 feet long and more than five feet tall.
It traveled to more than 50 communities during its 28-day tour that is scheduled to wrap up Aug. 28 at Queen’s Park.