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 Recession. It's one of the most fearful words a government party can hear during an election. But that's what Statistics Canada says Canada is in, and a new front that Stephen Harper's Conservatives find themselves fighting on. Meanwhile Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is pledging to run a $10 billion deficit for three years to spend on infrastructure, and the NDP's Tom Mulcair says his first, and subsequent budgets will be balanced.  To discuss all this, Marit Stiles, John Capobianco and Bernie Farber.


Marit Stiles:

Well the worst kept secret in the Canadian election just got the big "reveal." 

So here we are in — no denying it — another recession. This is the second recession in seven years with Mr. Harper and the Conservatives at the helm. Citing the news from Statistics Canada, NDP Candidate in Eglinton-Lawrence and former Saskatchewan Finance Minister Andrew Thomson called this series of recessions the “lost decade."

That's ten long years of job losses, crumbling infrastructure ... and while most Canadians were struggling, Harper and the Conservatives gifted the wealthiest with enormous tax breaks. They gave tax breaks to corporations with "no strings attached" to ensure jobs were created. And here we find ourselves in the middle of the most important federal election of Mr. Harper's career, and the proof is in the pudding.

Does the fact that we are now clearly meeting the technical definition of a recession alter this election? Harper looked desperate trying to find a silver lining: a small bump in June. But his problem is Canadians aren't feeling it. His party is readying to lambast Canadians airwaves with ads to incite fear that only they can truly manage things in a recession.

But will it fly? Their approach has not worked and folks are feeling it. Harper has to run on his record and it ain't looking golden.


John Capobianco:

You know we are in an election when the opposition wait with bated breath for the release of Statistics Canada's regular economic update. Not that they would have cared about it to this degree during the non-election period, but to be so gleeful at the news and to be ready, no matter what the numbers really mean, to jump on the Prime Minister and claim it is definitely a "recession" is political gamesmanship at its worst.

The NDP and Liberals should stop beating themselves to the front of the microphones to claim this is a recession and actually look at their respective policies, whence they'll determine that those policies will aggravate an already volatile economy made worse by global economic factors.

The fact of the matter is that our economy has been volatile — the PM even stated this when he launched the campaign. It has been a long period of global economic hardship which is still unsettled, as witnessed by the goings-on in Greece and, more recently, in China.

We all know that if you put ten economists in a room you will get ten differing points of view, but what is clear hear is that most economists are not aligned with the opposition on this.

To quote one economist, Douglas Porter of BMO who wrote in a research note: "If this period is ultimately deemed to be a recession, it will be of the mildest variety and one of the strangest recessions ever". He went on to note that consumer spending was up in both quarters and so was employment - as he says, "far from a widespread softening in the economy".


Bernie Farber:

Not aligned with position on this?  Really John, isn't that kind of like Chris Woodcock saying he didn't read the entire email?

We count on the GDP figures in a non-partisan way to give us the straight goods. The economy shrank for the second straight quarter and that defines a recession. It occurred on this government's watch, a government might I add that has made its fame and fortune on allegedly being good economic managers.

Most of the electorate are not going to care much about excuses. The polls tell us that from the reaction to the Duffy affair. This will not go down well and that is at it should be.


Marit Stiles:

Okay, John, I won’t deny that there is "politicking" happening here. Have you heard that there’s an election on? And what is the number one issue that Mr. Harper wanted to talk about, day in and day out? Ah yes, the economy.

So while I’m sure this latest recession "issue" is an inconvenience to the Conservative Party, the NDP is doing exactly what they need to be doing: offering solutions. This federal election the ballot question is going to be "can we afford another four years of Stephen Harper?" and so far Canadians seem to be saying "no we cannot."

The Conservatives have long surfed on the fallacy that they are the best managers of the economy. But time and time again Canadians find themselves wondering who’s benefiting?

It's not you, my friend. It's the guys at the top.

Meanwhile, the Liberals seem to be doing a whole lotta flip-flopping, desperate to find a strategy that will get them any play at all. They seem to have finally landed on a promise to rack up $10 billion in deficits before slashing $10-billion in one year to get to balance in the last year of a four-year term. Only the day before, Trudeau said he had no economic plan and would’ t specify numbers.

Mulcair is talking about responsible management of the economy, and it's resonating. Creating good middle class jobs, reducing small business taxes, kick starting manufacturing with an innovation tax credit.

He's learned from the best. Tommy Douglas balanced 17 straight budgets while introducing medicare. We can't afford another four years of Harper's mismanagement. And the NDP is the party that can defeat the Conservatives.  

John Capobianco:

Quite the spin from my two friends, especially Bernie who would love to draw any connection to the Duffy trial, since anything is better than talking about their unbelievably ill-conceived economic plan including his leader's desire to keep this country in perpetual deficits.

Marit, the economy is the number one issue and always will be - until of course the numbers don't suit your campaign strategy anymore, then you revert to the Duffy trial. However, the PM has been talking economic issues from the start and will continue to do so because given the volatility, now is not the time to change the strategy. It most certainly isn't the time to go with an unproven leader such as Justin Trudeau who would, if given a chance, spend our way to oblivion. Nor is it the time for Tom Mulcair with his plan, which has an $8 billion hole and a whole bunch of reckless spending promises.

We have had significant economic turmoil as a result of the global economic crisis over the years and this government under Stephen Harper has steered us through it better than our US neighbours to the south and other G7 countries. Yes, it is still unsettled and the dropping oil prices haven't helped.  That said, the steady economic hand of the PM will get us through this and not the tax and spend policies of the opposition.

As for the opposition jumping on the word recession, it is an election and it is expected that the Liberals and NDP would capitalize on this, but the CD Howe defines a recession as a "pronounced, pervasive and persistent decline in aggregate economic activity".  Many economists are not seeing the recent numbers in this light. That won't stop the opposition. What will is the voters' desire to ensure strong economic leadership continues.


Bernie Farber:

John, yes I know the Harper strategy is to downplay Duffy and pray it goes away. I have some bad news for you: it's not going away and it is making itself felt in virtually all other policy arenas, including the economy.

And Marit, the truth is that Tom Mulcair is in lock step with Harper when it comes to his economic plan. That’s right John, Mulcair is in your economic corner. Trudeau on the other hand has taken a bold step that separates him from the naysayers and moves confidently forward with a plan that will invest in Canada.

It may be popular to do the Harper/Mulcair “head in the sand” shuffle, but truth be told we need an unflinching leader who will not sulk in despair when the going gets tough.

Yes, it’s a bleak time, but it is at such times that we must move forward with courage and determination to do what’s best for Canada. Trudeau has demonstrated he has what it takes and Canadians are moving over to optimism.







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