Harper has the worst economic record in history

Louis-Philippe Rochon
Associate Professor, Laurentian University
Co-Editor, Review of Keynesian Economics

Follow him on Twitter @Lprochon


Mr. Harper and the Conservatives never miss an opportunity of reminding Canadians that we should vote for them in October in order to ensure economic prosperity in the future. At the heart of this argument is the belief that they are the best equipped political party to manage the Canadian economy. Yet a new study arrives at the very opposite conclusion: Mr. Harper’s government has the worst economic record of all federal governments in Canada since 1946 (Oops I said history before, mea culpa!).

Since the beginning of the elections, Mr. Harper has been busy reminding Canadians how his government is the one to be trusted when it comes to the economy, that his government delivered the goods. In painting the Liberals and NDP parties as dangerous alternatives, Mr. Harper proclaims himself as the best stalwart of the Canadian economy.

But economists Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan disagree. In a very thorough paper, they have identified 16 variables (for instance unemployment, income inequality, real economic growth, household debt, private business investment, exports, real personal incomes among others), and compared the economic record of all governments since 1946 (with a few exceptions, like for instance the governments of Joe Clark, John Turner and Kim Campbell) . After some serious number crunching (using data provided mostly by Statistics Canada) they conclude, not surprisingly, that Mr. Harper’s government arrive dead last, with Mr. Mulroney’s government a distant second.

On individual variables, Mr. Harper’s government ranks last on a great many of them, and second to last on some of the remaining ones. For instance, take exports. Mr. Harper is quite fond of pursuing trade agreements, so one would imagine that Canada would have benefited from these free trade deals by showing a spike in our exports. Yet, that is not the case. In fact, overall, exports have fallen during the Harper years.

The puzzling aspect in all this is how Mr. Harper can make such claims, when surely he and his staff are keenly aware of his government’s abysmal record. After all, one only needs to crunch numbers from Statistics Canada, or his own Ministry of Finance to arrive at the same conclusion. Mr. Harper, however, plays fast and loose with the statistics (he was never fond of statistics), and enjoys misquoting, misrepresenting and misleading.

This is a tactic straight out of the Ann Coulter book of politics: it’s not necessary to tell the truth as long as you say it with conviction. Eventually, voters may believe you.

One example that comes to mind happened during the last week’s leader’s debate where Mr. Harper argued that Canada’s recession was “almost exclusively” limited to the oil sector. According to Mr. Harper, the rest of the economy was growing and doing just fine. He then claimed that “80% of the Canadian economy is healthy and growing.” He has repeated that claim many times since.

Yet, nothing is further from the truth. In fact, the rest of the economy is not doing fine. The truth is that the Canadian economy is showing signs of severe stress: it’s called a recession. In fact, at this point, the oil crisis is playing a secondary role. The biggest contraction is not being felt in the energy sector, but rather in the manufacturing sector.

There were noticeable declines in three out of five goods-producing sectors, and the service industry was hit in in 11 out of 15 sectors. It would therefore be more accurate to say that 80% of the Canadian economy is sick and slowing down.

The economic weakness is broad and taking root. This is reflected in the disastrous employment numbers: while the economy created a measly 6,600 jobs, this hides the real numbers. More than 17,000 full time jobs were lost and replaced with part-time or precarious jobs. Labour force participation ticked downward again, and the number of unemployed individuals actually grew.

For the better part of a year, I have been writing on the economic record of this government. Mr. Harper’s policies of austerity have crippled the country, and we are now one of the worst performing economies of the G7, and in fact, our recovery since the 2007 crisis has been among the worse post-recession recoveries.

Mr. Harper is quite fond of saying that if we embark on a fiscal spending spree, we will end up like Greece. Such a statement reflects his complete misunderstanding of how economies actually work. Canada can never become another Greece; it is impossible. But if it could, if it ever were to happen, it would be through austerity, not through too much fiscal spending.


One comment

  • This reminds us of the degree to which Harper, from the very beginning of his time in government, adopted the Goebbels principle of simply blatantly lying about something no matter how false it is. And I must say that I have lived in several countries during national elections and it is difficult to imagine, in the present political and technological climate, this strategy working so effectively anywhere but Canada. I suppose it is a combination of media collusion and just plain ignorance on the part of voters, but whatever its root, it has been quite startling. But it has gotten to the point now where shine is wearing off of this lie. If it wasn’t wearing so thin we wouldn’t be seeing the ‘Terrorism” card being played daily by Harper. Unfortunately, the lie of ‘terrorism’ and encouragement of fear is even closer to Goebbels’ heart and should be a more effective lie than the other ones Harper has been peddling. I suspect that before Harper began his time in the PMO he figured his time limited on the outside to about ten years so his MO was to do as much damage as possible in that period on the assumption that even with a fairly good record most governments fall out of sheer weariness after a couple terms in office. His time in office has, however, twisted him deeply and turned him into a Stalin-like paranoid egomaniac. And now, I think, he is motivated as much by the desire to keep power as anything else. Makes me wonder just how far he will go to stay in office. . . .

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