With the economy contracting, oil prices sliding and the prospect of a balanced budget looking increasingly unlikely, Conservatives feared damage to their vaunted reputation as competent economic managers. As it turned out, Statistics Canada data confirmed that Canada's economy slipped into official recession in the first half of 2015 -- the damage was done.
With a strong plan to invest in jobs and economic growth, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has boldly distinguished himself from both Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. Mr. Harper's growth record is the worst of any prime minister in eight decades. There are 160,000 more jobless Canadians today than before he took office. And Mr. Mulcair has strangely sided with the Harper austerity agenda, meaning billions of dollars in program cuts and/or broken promises to concoct the appearance of a balanced budget next year. The Mulcair plan and the Harper plan are formulae for going nowhere. Justin Trudeau is offering the only agenda for real change.
There was a very telling disconnect earlier this week between what passes for priorities inside the Ottawa bubble and the issues that really matter to Canadians. While federal leaders and backroom organizers debated the debates, Canadians were still stuck in traffic. They still worried about finding a home they could afford. They still faced the frustration of trying to be globally competitive with inadequate and aging infrastructure. These issues are critical to the quality of life of Canadians and they need to be front and centre in this election campaign.
Reducing inequalities, if well done as per the progressive Trudeau Plan, will benefit our economy; increasing inequality -- the regressive Harper or Mulcair way -- will only harm it. A strong economy, a just society, a healthy environment: why should we have to choose? If we make the right decisions, we can better achieve all of these goals, precisely because we will not have given up on any of them. Trudeau's plan for fairness to the middle class is one of those good decisions Canadians have to make, in the interest of all.
How is it that everyone seems to know someone who's paid under the table, but no one concedes to doing it? Of course, that's no surprise. Who wants to admit to putting personal gain ahead of the greater good? It costs jobs, undermines businesses that play by the rules, and deprives the government of much needed revenue for vital programs. Statistics Canada says the underground economy totalled $42.4 billion in 2012, roughly 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product, much of it occurring in the construction, finance and real estate, retail and hospitality industries.