OTTAWA - The country is about to pass a red-ink milestone that the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says is completely unnecessary.

The national debt is set to reach $600 billion just seconds before 11:19 p.m. ET Saturday, says the federation, which has set up a "debt clock" to let everyone view the event online.

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

It should never have reached that level, said federation director Gregory Thomas, who blamed the Harper government's economic stimulus and other spending for the historic debt level.

PHOTOS: PROVINCES WITH THE MOST AND LEAST PUBLIC DEBT

PHOTOS: GOVERNMENT DEBT OF DEVELOPED ECONOMIES

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."

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

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.

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."

And the debt will keep climbing as long as the Harper government keeps spending beyond its means, the federation said.

The federation did applaud 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 debt by 2021. 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.

PROVINCES WITH THE MOST AND LEAST PUBLIC DEBT

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  • Alberta: $4,337 cumulative surplus

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: Alamy

  • Saskatchewan: $3,354 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: The Canadian Press

  • British Columbia: $7,866 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: The Canadian Press

  • Manitoba: $11,603 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: Alamy

  • P.E.I.: $11,919 debt per person*

    *2010-2011 fiscal year Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: n_wilsey via Flickr

  • New Brunswick: $13,336 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: Shutterstock

  • Nova Scotia: $14,023 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: Alamy

  • Newfoundland: $15,225 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: Alamy

  • Federal debt: $16,833 per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: The Canadian Press

  • Ontario: $17,621 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: Alamy

  • Quebec: $21,432 debt per person

    Source: <a href="http://www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/prov_fiscal.pdf">RBC</a> Photo: Alamy

GOVERNMENT DEBT OF DEVELOPED ECONOMIES

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  • Australia - 21% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • South Korea - 33% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • Canada - 69% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • Spain - 71% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • United States - 80% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • United Kingdom - 81% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • Germany - 83% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • France - 90% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • Italy - 111% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.

  • Japan - 226% Of GDP

    Number represents national debt as percentage of GDP Source: Wall Street Journal via <a href="http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2012/01/developed-economies-debt-levels-by-sector.html" target="_hplink">CreditWriteDowns.com</a>.