When it comes to looking into the economic future, the Harper government's record is nothing to brag about. And, in election years, the Harperite crystal ball is thoroughly unreliable. Consider, Scott Clark and Peter Devries write, what happened in 2008:
The November 2008 Economic and Fiscal Update forecast annual surpluses as far as the eye could see. Two months later this forecast was thrown into the trash. In response to the crisis Harper and Flaherty quickly discarded their Conservative orthodoxy and became temporary Keynesians. They introduced the largest stimulus budget ever, in an effort to increase economic activity. After that, deficits were recorded for seven consecutive years until, in this year’s April budget, Finance Minister Joe Oliver declared the government would finally register a surplus in 2015-16.
It's worth remembering that Harper and Flaherty became temporary Keynesians because they were a political minority. Who knows what they would have done if they had won a majority? Now fast forward to 2015:
The elimination of the deficit never had anything to do with good economic policy. The Conservative government’s sole economic policy objective has always been the elimination of the deficit. This is the only criterion it uses to judge its economic record; nothing else has mattered — not stronger economic growth, not increased job creation, not improved productivity, not saving the environment, not greater tax efficiency and tax fairness, and not strengthening federal-provincial and Aboriginal relations. The primary objective of the Harper government has always been to diminish the role of the federal government in economic policy. Eliminating the deficit no matter how small was critical to achieving that objective.
Stephen Harper is obsessed with diminishing the role of the federal government. Period. Circumstances have nothing to do with what role the government should play. Therefore, economic data are meaningless to him:
Statistics Canada has reported that economic growth has declined for four months in a row (January to April). Private sector economists have now revised down their forecasts of real GDP growth for 2015 by about 0.6 per cent. Earlier this month, the IMF also cut its forecast for economic growth in Canada for 2015 from 2.2 per cent to just 1.5 per cent. Shortly thereafter the Bank of Canada cut its forecast for economic growth for this year to 1 per cent, while declaring the economy had contracted in the second quarter. That means Canada was in a “technical” recession in the first six months of the year.
Never mind that the latest data differ significantly from the data the April budget was built on. Besides, that budget was built on false premises to begin with:
The April budget was built on smoke and mirrors: overly optimistic economic growth and oil price assumptions; cutting the contingency reserve by two-thirds; selling shares in GM at fire sale prices; raiding EI revenues; and even booking “savings” from unilateral changes to federal employees’ sick leave benefits. Without these tricks the government could not have paid for the income tax cuts it announced last October and still have balanced the budget.
The facts don't matter. They have never mattered. It's called Government By Obsession.