Canadian economy stalls. Ottawa trotting out pig, lipstick

| November 10, 2013 | 0 Comments
canadian economy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and retiring Alberta Conservative MP Ted Menzies will be selling Ottawa’s economic statement hard next week. Photo: Stephen Harper/Facebook.

Finance Minister will issue fall Canadian economy update in Calgary instead of Parliament

The Canadian economy has stalled, but the Harper Government doesn’t what to admit it. What to do? What governments have always done. Slap some lipstick on that pig and sell it.

It’s always been the “in” thing to do across the country, especially when significant quantities of smoke need to be blown to hide the truth.

canadian economy

Social media about leading from the Harper Government leading up to Flaherty’s statement about the Canadian economy in Calgary. Photo: Stephen Harper/Facebook.

Finance Ministers, carefully waiting until their House is not sitting, then issuing their Canadian economy update to a favourable selected audience, knowing it will dominate the news cycle for days without any real ability to make them look bad.

A decade ago, when current Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was serving in the Ontario government of Ernie Eves — and the news required liberal applications of pigs, lipstick, gloss, smoke and mirrors — the province’s economic announcements weren’t made in the legislature, but at an auto parts plant in the suburbs of Toronto.

This week will see Flaherty repeat the method, as the Conservative Government reveals its Canadian economy update in Calgary, rather than in the House of Commons.

The Commons is not sitting this week, due to Remembrance Day and the normal cycle for MPs to visit their ridings.

Still, there’s nothing about the Canadian economy update that couldn’t have found time in the House’s schedule — which is, after all, controlled by the Conservatives — last week? Or, if it wasn’t quite ready, next week, when Parliament resumes?

Only if you don’t want there to be too much examination of the claims, too quickly, with too many questions, would you dish it up during the gap week.

Canadian economy about to tank

Believe it: the news isn’t good.

canadian economy

Jim Flaherty, Canadian minister of finance

Saturday, ATB Financial, and Credit Union Central in BC and Ontario, all revealed that the economies of Alberta, BC, and Ontario were stalled. While unemployment hasn’t started upticking yet, job growth is dead, hiring has stopped, and economic output is lagging.

You can be sure that, on Tuesday, when Flaherty flatters Calgarians with his update (all carefully chosen for party loyalty and willingness to cheer on cue for the cameras, much as he learned to do under Ernie Eves) the fact that “unemployment is steady” will be part of the smoke to lead the eye and ear away from the fact that the country is stalled economically.

The deep discount — over $30/barrel — that Western Canadian Select is receiving for sales south won’t be mentioned either. Instead, it’ll all be about the export opportunities. (WCS is the lighter crude from the remaining light crude production in Alberta, plus heavier oils that have been processed in Canada — in other words, this isn’t the discount on the oil sands product that’s been plaguing the Alberta Treasurer, it’s a deep discount on the stuff everyone wants, and is finding increasingly hard to come by.)

How to sell the pig known as the Canadian economy

Make no mistake: Flaherty’s Finance Department will be burning the midnight oil running scenarios for the condition we’re in — the no growth one. All the projections, all the plans for next year’s budget and the year after that, were predicated on the country growing at a decent rate in 2013. (Ontario had planned on a 2.7 per cent growth rate, is getting something closer to 1.0 per cent, and suddenly has a 20 per cent higher deficit than was being forecast, mostly due to tax revenues not rising sharply as expected. Ottawa is feeling the same pinch.)

Yet “officially” — we heard it all just last week, at the Conservative Party convention — all is “sunny and prosperous, with even better days ahead.” Suddenly reversing course and saying “humph, we’re going to have to squeeze even harder” isn’t on the agenda of the message minders.

So, buried in the details, you’ll see, on Tuesday, new numbers that aren’t so good slipped into the press releases, knowing that there’s no response from the opposition on the spot as there would be in the House.

Delivering it all too late for the evening news in the East — the advantage of a Western “disclose” — will push reaction off to the next day, giving time for the message to sink in (mostly) unchallenged.

But what all this really does (and forget the “people other than in Ottawa deserve to see their government in action” nonsense that’s being spread about) is show contempt for all 308 MPs in the House.

They’re there, after all, in government and in opposition, to pay attention to the nation’s affairs, chief amongst them its finances and the Canadian economy.

By taking the economic update out of the House, the Harper Government is essentially saying “you MPs are just here to applaud on cue and vote on command.”

It’s yet another sign that the Harper team has long lost sight of the grassroots from which it sprung.

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