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Why Reports Say Canada's Economy Won't Recover For Several Years

07/21/2014 06:17 EDT | Updated 09/20/2014 05:59 EDT

This week the Bank of Canada reiterated our country's weak economic standing by downgrading expectations for growth both this year and next. "Right now, we don't have a sustainable growth picture in Canada," Governor Stephen Poloz said. The Bank is now forecasting that Canada's economy won't recover from the doldrums for several years.

This performance is a "serial disappointment," he said.

None of this is news to anyone but the Harper government, which seems to be nothing more than a hapless spectator as the economy falters from one bad indicator to the next.

For months on end, they dismiss weak employment numbers -- like the ones recently reported by Statistics Canada for the month of June -- as just "monthly volatility". But it keeps recurring, month after month. One might ask, at what point does that so-called "volatility" become an undeniable trend in the wrong direction. Or to put it another way, when will Mr. Harper pull his head out of the sand.

He tries to justify his grindingly mediocre record on economic growth and jobs by claiming to be doing better than any other G7 country. But that's neither true nor relevant.

The U.S. and the E.U. were at the epicentre of the 2008 recession. Their economies fell to rock-bottom. To claim that Canada, nearly six years later, is doing a bit better than that bad lot is not saying very much. In fact, some 140 countries in the world are projected to grow faster this year than will Canada. Should we be content with that?

Among G7 countries, over the past 18 months nearly all have made progress in reducing their unemployment rates (the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France and Japan), while the other two (Canada and Italy) have not. Is that good enough?

To camouflage his slow growth/no growth record, Mr. Harper claims to have generated "more than a million" new jobs since the lowest point in the recession. But examine his numbers. They are at least two years out of date.

More recently, the pace of job creation has markedly slowed. Fewer than 100,000 Canadian jobs came into existence in all of 2013, and the numbers in 2014 are on track to fall short of even that sorry figure.

The Bank is particularly concerned about the substantial decline in the "participation rate" in our labour force since just before the recession in 2008. It reports that 100,000 people aged 25-54 have given up looking for work altogether and that things are even more dire among our youth, with 200,000 dropping out of the labour force. Hardly a vote of confidence in Mr. Harper's performance!

And despite this lower labour market "participation", job creation is still not keeping pace with the numbers of people still looking for work. Indeed, in the month of June, there were 230,000 more jobless Canadians than just before the recession.

And what do we get from the Harper government?

Decision-making based on Kijiji postings. A year of tax-paid government advertising about a "Jobs Grant" that didn't exist. A temporary foreign workers system that is roundly condemned by both employees and employers alike. Complete denial about youth unemployment. And job-killing Employment Insurance payroll taxes frozen at artificially inflated levels to rake in more cash -- just so Mr. Harper can concoct a surplus on the eve of an election.

That's pretty thin gruel for close to 1.4-million jobless Canadians.

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