How Can We Pay Our Debt When Our Government Can't Pay Theirs?

Updated on October 16, 2019
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

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Every election, whether it's a provincial or a federal one, voters hear the same story—the one about how a particular party will be the one to fully balance the budget. Voters are inundated with lines from each party about how and when their party will fully balance the budget and then Canada will be on the right track.

The fact of the matter, though, is that Canada's debt still exists, and will undoubtedly continue to exist regardless of which party is running the country.

If Our Government Can't Stay in the Black, How Can We?

I realize I'm grossly oversimplifying what contributed to Canada's national debt, but if the government can't bring their debt load to zero, how is it that Canadians can bring their own individual debts to a zero balance?

I'm not talking about mortgages when I'm discussing individual debt, either. According to a July 2018 CBC news article, 44 percent of Canadians are just $200 away from financial insolvency, with $29,312 as the average monthly non-mortgage debt. The average credit card balance hovered around $4,154. When you consider that on average—at least, according to a Workopolis article from 2017—Canadians earn $51,000 annually, that's a high debt load, which in many respects could be attributed to the growing cost of living.

We now live in a world of keeping up with the Joneses, to be sure, but by the same token, everything's become far more expensive over the last two decades, which means that Canadians have had to dig deeper than ever before in order to survive.

As I was driving to the grocery store, stopping to fuel my car with overpriced gas before getting groceries that appear to be getting more expensive by the moment, it occurred to me that it was strange that we as consumers should be able to continue to do more with less when the federal and provincial governments typically each continue to vote its members raises and puts the bill at the foot of the taxpayer.

I'm not saying that we as citizens should not have to pay, through reasonable taxes, for the services our government gives us. However, it seems very interesting to me that the nation continues to be carrying a high amount of debt while somehow expecting that its citizens should be able to manage to survive even though taxes and the cost of living continues to climb.

I realize that there's also a gross difference between personal and national debt. The government is not going out and buying groceries, nor are they looking at Christmas gifts for their family members on a national level. I'm also not saying that people should ignore their personal debt because the government obviously can't stay in the black, either. We're grown-ups and as a result, need to meet our own responsibilities. We can't ignore, though, that things are getting more expensive and for many individuals, living a debt-free existence is becoming almost impossible.

There are many individuals across the country, for instance, working two jobs in order to pay the bills or to pay down debt. They might have kids that are getting ready to go to university, college or trade school, and that comes with its own expenses. They might have parents who require care, and that in and of itself can carry quite a financial and emotional burden. There might be a family member struggling with a serious illness and can't work, leaving the other partner trying to make ends meet.

It is interesting, though, that every government, regardless of party affiliation, claims that they're going to pay down the national debt. Then, the next party coming in says that the surplus the government claims to have had is nearly non-existent or is unsustainable, so further taxes and service cuts are necessary.

Again, I realize this is a huge oversimplification of how a government plays with its money. However, when you consider that anywhere from 25 to 32 percent, depending on where you live in the country, goes directly to taxes and our costs keep going up, it becomes increasingly difficult to pay to keep a roof over one's head, or pay for groceries, medication, transportation, and hopefully save a little for the future without incurring some sort of debt.

So, government officials, how are you expecting us to continue to pay an increasing lot of taxes when the cost of living keeps going up, and you can't even keep your own books in the black?

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