For the next seventy-seven days, we're going to hear the message that Stephen Harper is the best person to guide the Canadian economy. Jim Stanford has been crunching the numbers; and it turns out that -- like so much of what Mr. Harper says -- there is a cavernous gap between his rhetoric and reality. Stanford writes:
However, this gap between triumphalist rhetoric and grim reality did not suddenly appear. In fact, the evidence has been piling up for years -- long before the current slowdown -- that Canada's economic performance under the Harper Conservatives has been uniquely poor.
I have worked with my Unifor colleague Jordan Brennan to compile an exhaustive empirical comparison of Canada's economic record under the Harper government, and compared that record to previous post-war prime ministers. The full 64-page study was released today, and is available here.
Here's what we did: The performance of the economy under each prime minister was described on the basis of 16 conventional and commonly used indicators of economic progress and well-being. These 16 indicators fall into three broad categories, summarized as follows:
- Work: Job creation, employment rate, unemployment rate, labour force participation, youth employment, and job quality.
- Production: Real GDP growth (absolute and per capita), business investment, exports and productivity growth.
- Distribution and Debt: Real personal incomes, inequality, federal public services, personal debt, and government debt.
Taken all together, the picture that emerges is grim:
Considering the overall average ranking of each prime minister (across all 16 indicators), the Harper government receives an average ranking of 8.05 out of a worst-possible 9.0. That is dead last among the nine post-war governments, and by a wide margin -- falling well behind the second-worst government, which was the Mulroney Conservative regime of 1984-93.
The very poor economic record of the Harper government cannot be blamed on the fact that Canada experienced a recession in 2008-09. In fact, Canada experienced a total of 10 recessions during the 1946-2014 period. Most governments had to grapple with recession at some point during their tenures -- and some prime ministers had to deal with more than one. Instead, statistical evidence shows that the recovery from the 2008-09 recession has been the weakest (by far) of any Canadian recovery since the Depression. A uniquely weak recovery, not the fact that Canada experienced a recession at all, helps explains the Harper government's poor economic rating.
This statistical review confirms that it is far-fetched to suggest that Canada's economy has been well-managed during the Harper government's time in office. To the contrary, there is no other time in Canada's post-war economic history in which Canada's economy has performed worse than it did under the Harper government.
The man who claims to be an economist -- but who has never earned his living as an economist -- is a dismal failure when it comes to the dismal science.
Something to think about each time you're told that Stephen Harper knows what he's doing.