The Harper government frequently emphasizes its economic record, claiming sound economic management, but the reality is very different.
Unifor economists Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan compared the records of all federal governments over the past 70 years on 16 different widely used indicators of economic progress and well-being, including employment, job quality, economic growth, public services and debt. For 13 of 16 indicators, the Harper government ranks dead last and for the remaining three they rank second or third worst. Overall, the Harper government’s economic record is by far the worst in the last 70 years.
Harper’s poor economic record can’t be blamed on the 2009 recession, it’s the slow recovery under Harper that’s to blame. There have been ten recessions since 1946, some worse than 2009. The declines in oil and commodity prices are also not to blame as the figures used in this analysis go to 2014, before the real impacts of declining oil prices were felt. Other countries, including the United States, have had a much stronger recovery. Canada’s job and economic growth under Harper is well below the average for ‘advanced’ OECD countries.
The real problems are the regressive economic policies instituted by the Harper government since it formed its majority in 2011: austerity, cuts to public spending, tax cuts, suppression of workers’ wages and a narrow focus on the resource sector.
And it’s getting worse. Downward revisions to Canada’s GDP by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for this year are worse than any other advanced country. Figures released in September show we’ve entered another recession, with growth far below what the recent budget projected.
Despite the low dollar, which should help stimulate exports and reduce imports, Canada’s international trade deficit has worsened to record levels. Although interest rates are close to historic lows, private capital investment is expected to fall by seven per cent in 2015.
Job growth in Canada has slowed to a crawl, also the worst since 2009. Around 1.3 million Canadians remain unemployed, with another 1.3 million underemployed and a growing number of long-term unemployed.
Not everyone has done badly. Corporate profits have increased by 83 per cent since 2009 and CEO compensation is up by 40 per cent, four times the increase in average wages. While sales of luxury cars have hit new records, little has trickled down to everyday Canadians.
The policies of trickle-down economics and tax cuts haven’t worked, nor has gambling our economic future on high oil and mineral prices. That’s why our economy is faltering and why even the misguided achievement of a supposedly ‘balanced budget’ is even more of a failure. So much for the image of Conservatives as good economic managers.
Instead, we need a federal government that will put a priority on workers and creating more and better quality jobs, with decent wages and benefits; developing a more diversified, innovative and sustainable economy in collaboration with all sectors of the economy; strengthening our public services and social protections, and putting in place a fairer tax system.