Thursday, September 22, 2011

The New Normal

Lawrence Martin has an interesting rejoinder to Stephen Harper's claim that -- economically speaking  -- Canada is at the head of the G8 pack. If you look at Canada's economic record from an historical perspective, there is little to applaud:

In an essay in a newly published academic text, University of Dalhousie economist Lars Osberg provides an answer. We stack up dismally. From 1950 into the 1980s, hourly wages grew at a good rate as did living standards. From then on growth has been “pitifully small,” he says.

“For roughly thirty years, the average real hourly wage has hardly changed in Canada and the national unemployment rate has simultaneously been high by Canadian standards. This stagnation of real hourly wages is historically unprecedented.”

Even more interesting is Pierre Trudeau's economic record. Trudeau is the bogeyman of the The Right. His sins are supposedly many. But no transgression was more egregious than his alleged economic illiteracy. However, seen through the prism of today, that record isn't bad:

The conventional wisdom is that the economic record was dismal under the Trudeau government. In the 1970s, western economies suffered through oil price shocks and stagflation and Canada suffered as a result, posting a huge deficit by the time Trudeau left office in 1984. But by comparison to later years the record wasn’t so bad. Living standards grew nicely through Trudeau’s governance and the percentage of Canadians living in poverty dropped from 23 percent in 1968 to 13 percent in 1984.

Since Trudeau left office, living standards have flat lined. Mr. Harper and Mr. Flaherty are cheerleaders for mediocrity. Mediocrity is the new normal.

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