THE HARPER GOVERNMENT AND THE RECESSION

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Stephen Harper denies Canada has slipped into recession in 2015, and refuses to take steps to protect Canadians.
He 
failed to help Canada recover from the 2008 recession – and offers no plan for rebuilding after this one.

Canadians recognize that recessions are inevitable. In a globalized economy, few Canadians question that our country’s economy is affected by big-picture patterns, trends and developments we can’t control.

But Canadians also believe it’s reasonable to expect leaders to act on their behalf and help them to endure and survive the negative effects of recessionary times. To deliver on these expectations, Canadians look to their leaders to do some basic things:  Be honest and recognize when a recession occurs.  Acknowledge the hurtful impact of economic downturn on people and their families. And take action to protect Canadians, minimize the damage, and help the country recover and rebuild.

Across the country, Canadians are struggling to cope with the impacts of a recession Stephen Harper is choosing to deny and ignore. Personal and household incomes are flat-lined; employment rates, labour force participation and youth employment are dropping; living standards and distribution of wealth are worsening; business investment in non-residential capital spending is weak; business profits, growth in exports and productivity are the lowest in generations, with business closures and bankruptcies on the rise as the economy shrinks and slows down. All these indicators have real impacts on Canadians and their families.

In 2015, Stephen Harper has stubbornly refused to acknowledge Canada’s slide into recession and the fact Canadians are hurting. While Statistics Canada has documented the warning signs of at least five consecutive months of shrinkage in real GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the Harper Government has clung to the position that Canada’s economy is in great shape, and the outlook for our future is rosy.

Most economists disagree. Whether or not the technical definition of a recession is met in 2015, it’s widely recognized that Canada’s economy has suffered severe damage from the global collapse in oil prices, and needs help to recover. The Bank of Canada sees it that way – it’s already taken the recession-time step of making two major cuts to lending rates this year.

Yet Stephen Harper continues to behave as if all’s well with Canada’s economy. He refuses to even mention the “R” word – as if denying the reality of a recession will make it go away. In his calculated handling of the recession of 2015, Stephen Harper is putting political expediency and his desire to get re-elected ahead of empathizing with Canadians, recognizing how we’re hurt by the downturn, and taking steps to protect us and minimize the damage.

In the fall of 2015, Canada’s economic prospects are worsening. Economic institutions are revising their growth projections downward as new information emerges, especially from the US economy. China and other major global economies have flirted with disaster, threatening Canadian exports and erasing the advantage of the low Canadian dollar. Oil prices appear headed for new lows, and the weakness of the oil industry will continue to damage the Canadian economy.

Yet in the 2015 election campaign, the Harper Government has proposed no response to these imminent threats of a worsening economy and deepening recession. Rather than demonstrate leadership to protect Canadians with sound measures to stimulate the economy, Stephen Harper has offered up a “boutique” approach of tax credits for housing and apprenticeship that provide token assistance to a minimal number of Canadians.

Canada needs leadership that recognizes the reality of the 2015 recession and responds with a sound strategy for recovery and rebuilding based on economic stimulation and sound fiscal strategy. But in this time of need, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been nowhere to be found.

Leaving Canadians to fend for themselves and struggle out of a recession is no accident – the record shows this is a conscious, deliberate approach by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

Canada has endured six recessions since 1960, the most recent in 2008-09, with the low point reached in the second quarter of 2009 under the Harper government. The historical record shows that the two-year period that followed was Canada’s all-time weakest recovery from a recession. Stephen Harper delivered the poorest performance in Canada’s modern history at post-recession growth in real GDP and employment:

The six-and-a-half years since the recession of 2008-09 bottomed out in April 2009, the record shows that the post-recession economic recovery led by Stephen Harper has been the weakest in post-war history. When Canadians have looked to the Harper government to help renew and rebuild the economy, it has instead delivered record-low levels of GDP growth and employment growth, at the time Canadians needed help the most.

The facts are clear:  With its record of failing to deliver in the most recent post-recession period, the Harper government offers little hope to Canadians who seek leadership out of the downturn of 2015. The sense of abandonment, lack of compassion and refusal to take action that Canadians see in Stephen Harper and the Conservatives is rooted in their recent record of failure to respond when Canadians have had reasonable expectations and hopes for economic recovery. In the 2015 election, Canadians need to choose leadership that empathizes with their concerns about the recession, recognizes that action is required to avert and minimize the damage to people and their families, and provides a clear path forward to prevent another period of post-recession stagnation.

 

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