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Deficit Reduction or Debt ?

Many days the media seems to be very confused. They use the term Deficit and Debt interchangeably, and they are not the same thing (in terms of government spending).

In terms of Governments, a Deficit, usually describes how much more was spent than collected in taxes. It is usually measured over a yearly budget. If the deficit is zero, that means the government is taking in funds sufficient to pay for all the spending they have done for the year (this may include payments to service existing debts).

The 2019 federal debt is: $ 683,290,000,000.00 (according to Stats Canada)

Debt, on the other hand for a government is the amount the government owes, in terms of moneys borrowed over a long period of time. Deficit financing (or the accumulation of debt) for Canada started in the late 1960’s.

The federal deficit in 2017 was: $ 7.8 Billion (according to Stats Canada)

I was confused when the CBC had the headline, B.C. posts $1.5B operating debt, they have since revised the title, realizing their mistake. Their tweet remains mistaken:

Your Deficit and Debt

A personal deficit (or surplus), would be something you measure monthly. Did you spend more this month than you made? If you have more or a surplus, then you can put more money on your debt (overall debt), or save the surplus.

Your Debt is the sum total of all the money you owe. Your debt will slow your ability to enjoy your life. You cannot save for:

While you can have occasional monthly deficits, the goal is to have a yearly surplus. The other goal is to pay down debt as soon as possible, and that should be the main goal of your surpluses.

Seems straight forward, doesn’t it? Also seems that this isn’t really a topic for the current election.

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At The Mercy of Foreigners!!!

This is one of the battle cries I have heard talking about Canada’s National Debt and how we soon won’t be able to have control over our own destiny, as the Federal Government’s Creditors will start dictating to us about fiscal policy, Bunk! I say to that.

As usual the media gets it a little wrong. While the above rant may have some grain of truth with our soon to be turkey stuffed friends down south, in Canada that is not true at all. In fact Canada is really quite good figuring out who(m) is holding the Federal Government’s Debt.

International Comparison of Non-Resident Holdings of Central Government Debt

A very interesting graphic, which explains where some folks seem to get it wrong. Yes, our friends in the U.S. have a high degree of non-residents holding the Federal Debt (more than 2 times as much as Canada). It’s more interesting to see that Australia has such a high level of foreign investment.

Have a read of the document that is linked to the graphic (i.e. click on the graphic), if you are curious about exactly who, what, where and how the Federal debt works. Interesting stuff.


If I Were the Government

So I saw an interesting graphic on Tumblr comparing the U.S. government spending to a median family income and how it might look, so I have tried my best to dredge up this comparison for Canadians.

This model is already flawed as I am only looking at the model where I (the Big Cajun Man) will take on the guise of the Federal Government and not all governments in general (which would change the debt number much as you will see). The average family income is borrowed from 2011’s median family income from Stats Canada as well.

The numbers I am using are gleaned from a report from Stats Canada, and are at best an estimation.

Income for the BCM Family$76,000.00
Spending Costs 
   Life expenditures$74,512.00
   Debt charges$9,608.00
Total Spending$84,120.00
Net Income-$8,120.00
Debt charges as a percentage of income12.64%
Current Family Debt$180,453.00
Debt after this year$188,573.00
Income Compared to Debt42.12%

What does this mean? Well if I were the Government I’d be spending over 13% of my income on paying off my debt, however, if you look at my debt, it isn’t really that far out of whack, is it? A family with $180K worth of debt is a little high, and they should think about paying it off soon, but then again it is do-able, over a long period.

Oh and here is a nice graph I made too.

If I Spent the Way the Feds Spent
If I Spent the Way the Feds Spent

If you look at the U.S. Model it is a much higher Debt in comparison and a much more dire looking pay back scenario.


Budget 2012: The RDSP Changes

Historical information about the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) and the changes to it over various budgets. This is from the 2012 Federal Budget.

I’ll stay away from the rest of the budget (don’t want to sound too much like a whiny Civil Servant (who said, Too Late!)), but there are changes to the RDSP program which is important to me and any other parents who have disabled children and those with disabled loved ones.

From this web site, the changes are:

The budget proposes the following changes that will increase the effectiveness of RDSPs:

  • Simplifying the process to open RDSPs for individuals who have reached the age of majority and lack contractual competence;
  • Reducing the repayment of Canada disability savings grants and Canada disability savings bonds in certain cases;
  • Introducing changes to the minimum and maximum withdrawal rules;
  • Allowing a tax-free rollover of registered education savings plan investment income into an RDSP;
  • Temporarily suspending the termination of an RDSP following cessation of eligibility for the disability tax credit if the beneficiary may qualify for the DTC again in the foreseeable future; and
  • Reducing the burden associated with administrative requirements.

The last point is good, because as I have said, setting up an RDSP with TD/Waterhouse really was a complicated issue.

A lot of these changes are designed to get more institutions to offer an RDSP to their customers (it is not available everywhere), but also make it swifter in implementing as well.

The ability to transfer the proceeds of an RESP into an RDSP is a good idea. If you have a child that becomes disabled, or is diagnosed later in life, the ability to take the funds that you had been saving for post-secondary education into a lifetime savings program for the child, just seems to make sense to me.

The temporarily suspending the termination of an RDSP is interesting as well, in case you have a disabled person whose cure” is mis-diagnosed, or they were unable to get their disability “reconfirmed” in a timely fashion, there is not a sudden closure of their RDSP, again, this seems to make sense to me.

The RDSP still seems to be a bit of a mystery to a lot of folks, but if you have a disabled loved one, I would strongly advise you to go find out more about the program. If there is money to be had from the government to help later in life, you should be trying to get that money as soon as you can.


Civil Servants: Another Point of View

Written back in 2012, when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister. There was a feeling that the government needed to cut spending. In the end, big cuts did not happen. The Federal Government is too large, but no party wants to make those cuts.

I have in the past used information from the Canadian TaxPayers Federation, so I feel it would be remiss of me if I didn’t include their latest YouTube video as part of my I am a Civil Servant, set of writings.

The points made by the Taxpayers Federation are valid and interesting. However, there is an implication that Government Employees are all overpaid, etc., in the delivery of the message. Yes, they don’t say it, but I am reading between the lines. The e-mail that pointed  to the clip did include the following paragraph (which does make the point a lot clearer that Civil Servants are all RICH or will be with their pensions):

After all, you, along with every other Canadian, owe about $6,776 and count in additional taxes to pay for the rich federal government employee pension plan. That’s, of course, on top of our national debt. Federal bureaucrat pension plans are short $227 billion due to the rich, unsustainable payouts negotiated.

Blaming Civil Servants for having a generous pension is interesting, so PSAC should have negotiated a crappier set of benefits?!? Also, another reason the pension fund is short is due to the Federal Government raiding the fund in the 90’s and bad investments. This is a problem all pension plans are now suffering through.

I believe the TaxPayers Federation will get their wish somewhat when the new Government budget comes down. The Government will explain how much money will be spent this year on severance packages for the LARGE cut back in the Civil Service. This will not be scalpel cuts, this will be Chain Saw hacking, similar to the early ’90s.

Wonder what the Federation is going to say about the severance packages given to the Civil Servants? I guess that remains to be seen.


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