Goodale: Stephen Harper economically incompetent

Harper growth record worst since former prime minister R.B. Bennett

To the editor:

You can bet your bottom dollar Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Oct. 16 throne speech will assert repeatedly his government is “focused on jobs and growth.”

But just saying it doesn’t make it true. Harper has the worst economic growth record since the dismal days of R.B. Bennett.

When he took power in 2006, Harper was handed a steadily growing economy, which had generated 3.5 million net new jobs, declining debt and taxes, a decade of balanced budgets, annual surpluses at about $13 billion, and fiscal flexibility projected ahead five years totalling $100 billion.

It was the most robust fiscal situation in the western world and he blew it in less than three years.

He over-spent by three-times the rate of inflation. He eliminated all the financial shock absorbers that had been built into Canada’s budgetary framework to protect against adverse events. He put this country back into deficit again – a structural deficit – before (not because of) the recession which arrived in late 2008.

It’s now four full years since the recession ended, and still our national economy remains sluggish with vast disparities among different regions, sectors and demographic groups.

In response, this government has only one monotonous and ineffectual prescription – austerity. To camouflage his structural deficit, Harper took a slice out of future funding for health care and old-age pensions.

Beyond plain incompetence Harper’s basic problem is having no credible plan for economic growth.

Mr. Harper is quick to claim Canada has more growth than some countries – Spain. But we’re not doing better than many others – Australia, New Zealand, Norway or even the United States.

Canadians are weary of the grinding mediocrity that characterizes the Harper regime. We’re constantly told to lower our expectations, settle for less. A big part of that burden falls on Canada’s middle-class. That’s just not good enough.

It’s time for a government that will be on Canadians’ side, encouraging us to be hopeful and ambitious once again – about our own prospects and about the future of our country.

Ralph Goodale

Liberal deputy leader

100 Mile House Free Press

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