I never thought I would live to see this headline: Canada in recession. But they say figures don’t lie and the figures show two consecutive quarters of negative growth by America’s northern neighbor. That is what economists the world over recoganize as a recession.
How do you manage to steer a country like Canada on to the rocks? This vast territory has an abundance of natural resources – forests, water, waving fields of grain and every mineral known to man – and only 36 million people to share its abundance.
You would think a blind squirrel could lead a country like that and not blunder into a recession. But somehow Prime Minister Stephen Harper couldn’t steer clear of the economic rocks.
Oddly, Harper’s disaster was triggered by his love affair with one of Canada’s abundant natural resources – oil.
The male equivalent of America’s Sarah Palin, the Canadian prime minister bet all his chips on a drill-baby-drill policy, expecting China to provide a never-ending market.
So when oil prices plummeted and the Chinese economy slowed, Canada got hit hard.
Of course there’s more to it than that. Harper is a conservative and you know how conservatives think. They insist they can ensure prosperity for a country as a whole by keeping its fat cats purring contentedly. Time and again, this trickle-down heresy is proved false. Yet time and again, conservatives trot it out as the panacea for all of a country’s ills.
For decades, Canadians elected progressive leaders and the country prospered. But I guess they got bored with persistent prosperity so they decided to try a conservative government for a change. Here’s what they got:
- Slashed corporate income taxes
- Free-trade deals
- Reduced regulations for businesses, leaving them to police themselves
- Anti-union policies
As we all should know by now, these policies never work. A recent report shows this government’s economic record is the worst in Canada’s post-war history.
Business investment and exports slowed – and jobs vanished. Personal debt climbed as wages stagnated. Income inequality reared its ugly head. For the first time in my long memory, middle class misery became a fact of life in Canada.
But live and learn, I guess. Now that Canadians have reaped the bitter harvest of Harper’s conservative policies, I expect they’ll send him packing in October’s elections.