Stephen Harper hasn't shown up to debate Bill C-51. He just announced it at a campaign rally. And he's letting Joe Oliver do the talking about the economy. Heading into a meeting of finance ministers last week, Oliver declared:
Our Government’s sound economic management and unwavering commitment to balance the budget this year — while creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians — has resulted in a resilient economic performance in a challenging global economy.
But, given the facts, what Oliver has been saying is pure gibberish. Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write:
This government has adopted an austerity-led growth strategy. We got the austerity — we just didn’t get the growth. Annual economic growth has fallen in every single year since 2010. Forecasters, including the Bank of Canada, are lowering their growth forecasts for 2015 to below 2 per cent, a far cry from the almost 2.5 per cent they were forecasting only a few months ago. The Canadian economy is in a deep freeze, and the only thing Oliver and Prime Minister Harper can think to do is more of what they’ve done: cut spending.
The drop in oil prices has forced economists to revise down their outlook for inflation. Nominal GDP — the broadest base for calculating government revenue — is now expected to be significantly lower than the earlier forecast. In the November 214 Fiscal Update, Oliver forecast nominal GDP growth at 3.7 per cent for 2015. Now, most private sector economists expect it to be around 2 per cent. This will result in much lower federal revenues going forward.
Oliver says the government has an “unwavering commitment to balance the budget.” Trust us — absolutely no one in a position to know believes that Oliver can do it without some budgetary voodoo.
Apparently, Mr. Harper believes he is the New Pharaoh. Facts like these simply don't matter:
The unemployment rate is stuck between 6.5 and 7 per cent. The labour force participation rate is at its lowest level since 2002. In January, the increase in employment was due primarily to part-time and self-employment. Full-time employment actually fell. And we can expect things to get worse in the coming months, as we begin to see the direct impact of falling oil prices on employment.
Last year, the G20 agreed to boost spending on infrastructure "to raise global GDP by 2.1 per cent by 2018." But Oliver insists that balancing the budget comes first.
So let it be written. So let it be done.