The Harperites have always insisted that their principal virtue is competent economic management. But, recently, Christopher Flavelle has been making the point that their record tells a different story:
When the Conservatives took office in 2006, the median family income was $47,600. In 2011, the latest year for which Statistics Canada has released figures, it was $47,700. (Both figures are in 2011 dollars.)
In other words, at the end of Stephen Harper’s first six years as prime minister, a household in the middle of the income distribution was pulling in $100 more than it did when he took office. In fact, 2011 median income was $1,600 lower than at its pre-recession peak in 2008.
Things have looked a little better for those at the top of the income distribution. In 2006, adjusted market income for the highest-earning 20 per cent of Canadian families was $104,000; by 2011, that had increased 5 per cent, to $109,200.
The change was less sunny for the bottom quintile of families, who saw their adjusted market income fall 6 per cent over the same period, to $8,300 from $8,800.
None of this should be surprising. Wedded as they are to the doctrines of Milton Friedman, the Conservatives are repeating the same pattern that drove the American and the world economy off the cliff in 2008.
And, just as Americans tried to deal with income inequality by going into debt -- particularly mortgage debt -- the same pattern is being repeated here:
As incomes stagnated, the cost of living rose, pushing households deeper into debt. In 2006, Canadian households had debt equal to 135 per cent of their nominal disposable income, a figure roughly equal to U.S. households and about one-fifth lower than in the U.K.
By 2012, household debt had jumped to 165 per cent of disposable income in Canada, while it fell to 111 per cent in the U.S. and 152 per cent in the U.K. In fact, of the countries for which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports these data for that year, Canada’s household debt levels were the highest for 2012, the latest for which figures are available.
In Canada, history -- recent history, not ancient history -- is repeating itself. The meltdown of 2008 held no lessons for the Harperites. They claim they stand for sound economic management. The truth is they stand for sheer stupidity.