The US financial sector is crumbling, stock markets are in a nosedive, and economists widely predict a similar fate for Canada. Talk of recession is deafening, yet all we hear from Stephen Harper is that the “fundamentals of the Canadian economy are sound.”
But Harper is well aware that the Canadian economy is headed for recession. Department of Finance officials have known for months that the US financial sector was about to tumble, and combined with a housing bust, would plunge the Canadian economy into a recession.
It is inconceivable that Prime Minister Harper was not briefed about the US meltdown – especially when his own economic policies are so strikingly similar to the American government’s. In fact, the problems in the United States are being caused by the same economic policies that Harper continues to push through in Canada: deregulation, privatization, tax cuts, and inadequate public investment.
It is unfortunate that he continues to mislead Canadians when, since he took power:
- The inflation rate has increased from 2.2% to 3.5%
- Most workers have had no increase in their real wages, yet CEO salaries have increased by more than 50%
- One in ten Canadians live in poverty
- Our economic growth has weakened from 4.2% to 0.1% in the most recent quarter
- Canada’s productivity—the efficiency of our economy—has actually declined
- The federal government’s surplus has been squandered on ineffective tax cuts, falling from $13 billion when he took office to barely above zero this year.
High oil prices and a less exposed financial sector have meant that the Canadian economy hasn’t been hit as hard as the US - yet. Unfortunately, Harper has a very narrow economic vision and is unwilling to compromise. His neo-conservative economic policies – which involve tearing down Canada’s social safety net - will only make things harder for those hit hardest during a recession.
Worse, many Canadians have already lost a large share of their pension savings. Canadian trusteed pension plans have fallen by $50 billion since March, and RRSPs are down by approximately $30 billion. Millions of Canadians’ retirement savings are at risk, yet Stephen Harper still doesn’t see a problem.
These are hard economic times, and Canadians need a leader with a forward-thinking approach to the economy. We need a prime minister who won’t leave people and the economy to the mercy of the markets and business judgements.
Canada needs to take steps to ensure economic stability, including plans to:
- Strengthen economic security programs for Canadians: improve public pensions, expand EI, introduce a low income residential retrofit program to reduce energy costs, provide affordable housing, fund public social services, child care and health care to help households cope with tougher economic times.
- Safeguard pensions and reassure Canadians of the safety of their investments by: providing greater protection for pensions, ensuring that financial fraudsters are prosecuted and toughening up regulation of the financial industry.
- Invest in our future: ramp up federal funding for public infrastructure, invest in public education, training, manufacturing and forestry; and create green jobs together with transition funds to help adjust to a greener economy.