07/22/2015 02:09 EDT | Updated 07/22/2015 02:59 EDT

Majority Believes Canada Already In Recession: Poll


A majority of Canadians isn't buying Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s assertions that Canada has avoided a recession.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents in a new poll from Forum Research say Canada is in a recession right now, with less than a third — 29 per cent — saying it isn’t.

Whether or not you believe the country is in a recession likely has something to do with your political outlook. The poll found that 70 per cent of NDP voters believe Canada is in recession, but only 37 per cent of Conservative voters agree.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver this week reiterated his position that Canada is not in a recession.

This feels like a period of slower growth, but not a period of contraction,” Oliver said.

On that point, the Conservative cabinet minister is in disagreement with the Bank of Canada, which last week indicated Canada is in a recession, even if the central bank was reluctant to use the word.

It sees Canada’s economy contracting 0.5 per cent at annual rate in the second quarter of this year, following a 0.6 per cent decline in the first quarter. Two consecutive quarters of economic contraction are considered a recession.

"While the official marker of a recession is two quarters of negative growth, recessions really start when people believe they do, which seems to have occurred already,” Forum Research president Dr. Lorne Bozinoff said in a statement.

“While government supporters are eager to pin the blame on a general global economic downturn, opposition parties are much more eager to lay blame at the government’s feet, either because of their poor monetary policy or their single minded focus on Canada’s energy sector.”

A plurality of those who said there is a recession blamed it on the oil price crash (28 per cent), while 24 per cent blamed global circumstances and 17 per cent blamed Canada’s monetary policy.

Not surprisingly, Alberta respondents were the likeliest to say Canada is in recession, with 65 per cent agreeing, the Forum poll found.

With a federal election scheduled for October, the question of whether or not Canada is in a recession has taken on more political undertones than usual. While the Harper government plays down concerns about the economy, political opponents are using the bad economic data to score points.

The Parliamentary Budget Office forecast Wednesday that Canada’s federal government will post a $1-billion deficit this year, based on last week’s reduced forecast for Canadian growth from the Bank of Canada.

The NDP wasted no time in attacking the Harper government on its economic record.

“This is further evidence that Stephen Harper’s plan isn’t working – shrinking GDP, private sector job losses, record household debt – and now a budget deficit,” NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen said in a statement. “The Conservatives staked their whole brand on a balanced budget while slashing services for Canadians – but they failed to build a balanced economy and will leave Canadians with another budget deficit.”

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