VANCOUVER - One of the most important issues for Canada in the American election will be whether the winner can avoid sending the U.S. economy over a so-called "fiscal cliff," says Ottawa's representative in Washington.
Ambassador Gary Doer, in Vancouver on Wednesday to speak to the city's board of trade, declined to say just which candidate or party he feels is best equipped to break an ongoing budget impasse in Congress — which could trigger tax hikes and deep spending cuts.
But Doer, a former Manitoba premier who's been ambassador for the past three years, said he's been hard at work preparing for a number of possible election outcomes depending on who wins control of the president's office, Congress and the Senate.
Any of those scenarios would have a significant impact on Canada's economy, he said.
"That's what we're focused in on," Doer told reporters after his speech.
"Who's in all three of those bodies that will have to come together to make sure the fiscal cliff is not a situation that represents a decline in GDP in the United States, and by definition, results in a decline in demand for Canadian products because of that."
President Barack Obama and Congress are currently deadlocked over the U.S. budget, and many observers have feared if a deal isn't reached by the deadline of Jan. 1, the automatic tax increases and spending cuts could reverse progress in the economic recovery.
The winners of the Nov. 6 election won't take office until the new year, but Doer suggested the election results will influence if a deal is reached.
"Whether they get an agreement before Jan. 1 or shortly after that, we believe that it's very important for them to get an agreement," said Doer.
"It's very short-term, but it is real, and it will create a lot of uncertainty if they don't manage it."
Doer also noted another possible threat to the U.S. — and Canadian — economic recovery will come early next year, when Congress will need to raise the federal debt ceiling. The previous debt-ceiling standoff in 2011 was resolved at nearly the last minute, narrowly averting a first-ever default by the U.S. government.
Doer told the board of trade gathering he's confident he'll be able to work with whoever is sitting in the White House following the election, whether it's Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
"We do know a lot of the people in both potential administrations," he said.
"We are preparing for potential scenarios in the Congress, potential scenarios in the Senate, potential scenarios in the administration."
Doer also said he is optimistic about the economic recovery in the United States, pointing to rising housing values, an increase in housing starts and decreasing household debt.
"I definitely believe that the U.S. economy is going to be coming back over the next period of time," he said.
— With files from The Associated Press
Workers are not reaping the gains of their extra productivity.
Worker productivity grew 11 times more quickly than worker pay between 1979 and 2011: While <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/key-findings/" target="_hplink">worker productivity rose 69 percent</a>, median hourly compensation rose just 6.5 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-wages-figure-4u-change-total-economy/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]
CEO pay has skyrocketed.
Maybe it's time to consider your CEO's massive pay package as a cut out of your own paycheck. <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/wages/" target="_hplink">CEO pay is more than 200 times</a> that of a typical worker, up from 30 times that of a typical worker in the late 1970s, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
There aren't enough jobs.
At its current rate of job creation, the U.S. will not return to its pre-recession unemployment rate of around 5 percent before 2020, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Job growth was slow even before the recession.
From the Economic Policy Institute: "The business cycle from 2000-2007 is the weakest full business cycle on record for job creation, due to the fact that demand was insufficient to drive overall GDP gains that were robust enough to generate strong job growth." It appears that the middle class squeeze has hurt job creation and economic growth.
We are poorer than we could be.
Households in the middle fifth of income distribution would have been making $18,897 more per year as of 2007 if their incomes had grown as quickly as overall average incomes between 1979 and 2007, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (The sizable income growth for top earners since 1979 skewed the overall average.)
The rich have captured most income growth.
The top one percent captured 60 percent of total income growth between 1979 and 2007, while the bottom 90 percent was left with just 9 percent of the total, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Moreover, the top one percent's incomes rose 241 percent, in contrast to 11 percent growth for the bottom fifth and 19 percent growth for the middle fifth. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-income-figure-2a-real-median-family/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]
Wages have grown more quickly for the rich.
Wages for the top one percent spiked 131 percent between 1979 and 2010, while wages for the bottom 90 percent of workers rose just 15 percent over that same period, according to the Economic Policy Institute. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-wages-figure-4h-change-real-annual-wages/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]
The poorest Americans are earning less than in 1979.
Americans in the bottom tenth of the wage distribution earned less last year than the lowest earners did in 1979, accounting for inflation, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile, the real wages of the median worker rose only 6 percent between 1979 and 2011.
The American Dream is eroding.
"Families headed by early baby boomers (born between 1945-1954) are the last generation (on average) to achieve higher living standards than the one that preceded them," the Economic Policy Institute says. Among families with incomes below $28,000 in 1994, less than 1 percent made it to the top fifth of incomes 10 years later, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
This has been a lost decade.
On average, hourly pay has not grown at all since 2002 for workers with a college degree or with only a high school degree, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Wages have not grown for college graduates in nearly every occupation, and college graduates in the 70th income percentile or lower have had stagnant or falling wages since 2000. [Chart credit: <a href="http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-wages-figure-4a-change-total-economy/" target="_hplink">Economic Policy Institute</a>]