Yesterday, the Harper Party released its latest campaign ad. It was Stephen Harper's steady hand at the tiller, the ad claimed, that has guided Canada through the economic storms of the decade. But Scott Clark and Peter Devries beg to differ. The economy, they write, is dead in the water:
The dismal job creation numbers over the past 12 months merely show a long-term trend becoming entrenched. The economy has been in a growth and employment slump since 2010, with economic growth and employment growth falling year after year. The government’s response to this stagnation has been to repeat the same, threadbare talking point: that a million jobs have been created since 2008.
The Harper government has been in denial about Canada’s poor economic and job performance for some time. The overall unemployment rate remains mired at seven per cent and the unemployment rate for young Canadians has been stuck between 13 and 14 per cent. Two key numbers — the labour force participation rate (the number of people employed as a percentage of the population) and the employment rate (the ratio of working people age 15 and older to the population) — are both below their 2001 and 2008 levels.
Too many Canadians have stopped looking for work altogether. Most of the jobs created over the past year have been part-time; in fact, Canada seems to be degenerating into a part-time employment economy with stagnant labour income. The government seems oblivious. Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s only jobs strategy is to hope for a recovery in the United States. He believes, apparently, that there’s nothing the federal government can do to strengthen domestic demand and job creation except stick to the plan to eliminate the deficit by 2015-16.
Oliver’s predecessor, the late Jim Flaherty, spent years sniping at the U.S. and other G7 countries for failing to take action to eliminate their deficits quickly. Washington ignored him, taking the view that a rapid reduction of the temporary stimulus from the 2008 recession would undermine the recovery.
And guess who turned out to be right? The United States -- not without obstruction from Harper's cousins, the Republicans -- made better choices. It is, after all, a matter of choices:
The Harper government is committed to lower taxes, lower spending, balanced budgets and smaller government. But why should Canadians accept these as the only options? There’s nothing inevitable in this climate about years of sluggish growth. It’s a choice — a political choice.
And if their latest ad is any indication, the Harperites are betting that Canadians will make the same choices in 2015.