Canada’s Economy Has Never Performed Worse Than Under The Harper Government


Prime Minister Harper met with the Governor General David Johnston last Sunday and asked him to dissolve Parliament, starting an 11-week campaign in advance of an election Oct. 19. By launching the campaign this early, he is increasing the election spending limits, so his party can take advantage of the fact that it has more money than both of the opposition parties.

Prime Minster Harper often boasts that his government has created 1.2 million jobs in the past seven years and that his government has an impressive economic record.

With Canada slipping into another recession, a new report about Stephen Harper’s Conservative government paints a picture of economic failure.  Rhetoric and Reality: Evaluating Canada’s Economic Record Under the Harper Government authored by UNIFOR Economists Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan, tracks the performance of Canada’s federal governments from 1946 through 2014.

According to the report, “Canada’s economy has never performed worse, since the end of World War II, than under the present Conservative government. The Harper government ranks last among the nine post-war governments, and by a wide margin – falling well behind the second worst government, which was the Mulroney government of 1984-93.”

The report also shows that the poor economic results of the Harper Conservative government cannot be blamed on the 2008-09 recession. Canada has experienced a total of 10 recessions since 1946, with some Prime Ministers contending with more than one during their tenures.  The recovery from the 2008-09 downturn has been the weakest of any recovery since 1946.

The report compares annual data from Statistics Canada and other publicly available sources regarding 16 key conventionally used indicators of economic progress and well-being. These indicators include:

  • Work: Job-creation, employment rate, unemployment rate, labour force participation, youth employment, and job quality.
  • Production: Real GDP growth (absolute and per capita), business investment, exports, and productivity growth.
  • Distribution and Debt: Real personal incomes, inequality, federal public services, personal debt, and government debt.

For 13 of the 16 indicators, the Harper Conservative government ranks last or second last among all postwar Prime Ministers.  And its average ranking across all 16 indicators is by far the worst.

What are the facts about job creation by the Harper government? Stanford argues that the main problem with the job creation boast is that the Conservatives open the argument using 2008 — the year the financial crisis hit — as the base year. In that year, 400,000 jobs were lost, but Stanford said those jobs returned in the subsequent recovery — not as a result of a job creation plan. Using that argument, the 400,000 job gains should be removed from the 1.2 million jobs figure the Conservatives cite, he said.

“The more meaningful comparison would be to say ‘where were we before the recession hit?'” he said. “In that regard we’ve fallen way, way behind population growth.”

Overall, Stanford said Canada’s economy is far weaker than the government lets on. Stanford stated that years of government austerity plus the hoarding of money by large corporations — even in spite of low corporate taxes — has made the economy stagnate.

“At any given point in time, the economy has four big drivers, consumers, businesses, foreigners through our exports and government,” Stanford said. “Those are the four major engines of the economy and right now none of them are really in gear.”

These are the economic facts that the Harper government does not want you to know.

This election matters in many ways to all of us. It will also be the first election to occur since the current government announced in 2012 sweeping cuts to federal jobs, programs and services.

We need to elect a new government that will take us in a new direction that creates enough full-time, secure jobs to make up for years of labour market stagnation.

Harinder Mahil is a human rights activist active in the Indo-Canadian community. He is a director of the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation. He can be contacted at [email protected].