Nine-million baby boomers will retire from the workforce over the next two decades, and when they do, they will start to consume the most expensive forms of government programs. This is great news for seniors, but terrible news for our public finances and for young Canadians forced to foot the bill. Generation Y has been dubbed the "Millennial" generation because we came of age at the turn of the new millennium. A more fitting name for this cohort is Generation Screwed.
Most people would agree that you shouldn't have to pay someone else's tax bill. Despite all of the myths surrounding tax filing, this one is actually in accordance with Canadian law. If a relative of yours were to die owing money, you have no obligation to pay their debts. It doesn't matter who they are, parents, siblings, aunts or uncles. If they have spent all their money, and die having nothing but debts, you're in the clear. However, unlike people whose debts die with them, a government's debt is carried forward forever (or until it's paid off). As we move through time, we're getting closer and closer to the point where it will be impossible to "clear our tab."
Why has Canada's federal debt jumped over 30 per cent since 2008, to over $600 billion? Why did the government miss its deficit target by $1.4 billion last year, and what is pushing this year's deficit forecast higher by more than $5 billion to $26 billion? Figures released by the PBO show that, contrary to all the talk we've been hearing about cutbacks, Ottawa's payroll is getting out of control.
The management of public finances may not have received due attention from the premiers in Halifax. But as our federal and provincial political leaders gear up for next year's budget season, they would be wise to acknowledge the seriousness of growing government debt and put forth bold plans to balance their budgets. Kicking the debt down the road simply isn't an option.