It is hardly news, but the scale of the manufacturing crisis in Canada continues to astound.
Between 2002 and 2013, manufacturing employment fell by 557,000 jobs, meaning that one in four (24%) of the jobs that existed in 2002 have disappeared. As a share of all jobs, manufacturing fell from 15.0% to 9.8% over this period.
There has been no meaningful or sustained recovery from the Great Recession for the manufacturing sector. Total employment in 2013 was no greater than in the recession year of 2009.
The Conservative Party recently launched the “We're Better off with Harper” campaign with the claim that “with over one million net new jobs created in the recovery, Canada's economy is on the right track – thanks to the strong leadership of Stephen Harper and Canada's Conservatives.”
There have indeed been more than one million jobs created since mid-2009 when the recovery began. But the job market in Canada is still far weaker than was the case before the recession.
The Conservative Party recently launched the “We're better off with Harper” campaign with the claim that “with over one million net new jobs created in the recovery, Canada's economy is on the right track – thanks to the strong leadership of Stephen Harper and Canada's Conservatives.”
The number in that claim is carefully chosen, and taken in isolation is factually correct. In the five years of recovery from June 2009 to June 2014, total employment indeed rose by 1,091,400 jobs.
But if we do the count from June 2008, before the onset of the recession and the big job losses it caused, the increase in employment to date has been a more modest 753,000 jobs. And the national unemployment rate in June 2014 was, at 7.1%, still significantly higher than the average of 6.0% in 2007 and 6.1% in 2008.
For all of the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the Harper government, the fact remains that Canada’s economic recovery has been built on very fragile foundations. Growth has been fueled by the growth of household and foreign debt rather than by business investment, and we have become dangerously reliant on the resource sector.
Young people lag behind in Canada's economic recovery, with rates of unemployment and underemployment still significantly above pre-recession levels. The danger is that this will have a permanent scarring effect on many youth, with long-term negative implications for both our economy and our society.
It is often forgotten that Canada still has a large “echo baby boom” youth age cohort, with some 4.4 million persons age 15 to 24 now transitioning into the paid work force. They will all be needed in a few years just to replace “baby boomer” retirees, and our economic prospects will be brighter if our future work force gains relevant skills and experience today.
Central bank governors are not normally known for being outspoken or critical of prevailing economic policies. Not the case, it seems, for Mark Carney and David Dodge, former governors of the Bank of Canada.
Mr. Dodge, in a report for the legal firm Bennett Jones, has recently warned against premature fiscal tightening in the current economic climate. Indeed, he and his coauthors advocate an expansion in infrastructure spending — in ports, roads and transit systems — among other things. Even though this will mean continuing fiscal deficits, they say that “in the current environment of low long-term interest rates, fiscal prudence does not require bringing the annual budget balance to almost zero immediately”. Such counsel flouts the current policy stance of the federal Conservative government, which is to eliminate the budget deficit next year.
In his now famous book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty argues that there is a strong tendency for wealth to become concentrated in ever fewer hands unless the economic forces promoting greater inequality are countered by deliberate political choices.
The issue of income-splitting — a tax policy whereby income is reattributed within a household from a higher-earning spouse to a lower-earning spouse — has been front of mind among tax experts, federal Conservative ministers and, most recently, the left-leaning Broadbent Institute. The practice advantages households in which income is predominantly earned by one spouse, since it allows a taxpayer in a high tax bracket to attribute income to a partner who pays at a lower marginal rate (or who earns nothing at all).