OT: Harper Warned Us About the Economy

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Harper Warned Us About the Economy
by Rob Doyle

Today, opposition parties are all talking about the dangers that global economic uncertainty is posing to the Canadian economy. Having suddenly woken up to the danger facing the economy, they are scrambling to invent policies about this crisis.

N.B. (from me) - Don't forget Harper is an economist by profession, not a professor or activist such as the other two.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2007

Last December, the Prime Minister was talking about the coming challenges brought on by the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

(London Free Press, December 12, 2007, A1.)

“Harper ready to give us the squeeze. Tells Canadians to tighten their belts as U.S. financial collapse looms” (Ottawa Sun, December 21, 2007).

“In CTV's year-end interview with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he says he's concerned about the slowdown in the American economy and how it could impact businesses north of the border” (Canadian Press, December 20, 2007).

“After almost two years of ‘don't worry, be happy’, the PM has been raising a caution flag, if not an alarm, about the Canadian economy in the year ahead. ‘I think 2008 will be a more challenging year for the country and for the government,’ he predicted during a recent chat with us at 24 Sussex Dr.” (Greg Weston. Whitehouse Star, December 31, 2007).

· “Harper said he'll be keeping watch on the looming storm on Canada's economic horizon. ‘We know there is considerable uncertainty in the world economy, in the American economy, and we've seen very strong performance from our economy so far,’ he said Monday. ‘So obviously, our wish for the year is we're able to sustain that momentum and shelter as best we can Canadians from any fallout of global economic problems’” (Canadian Press, December 31, 2007).

The Prime Minister was clear that the difficulties in the American economy were a real concern.
· ROBERT FIFE (Reporter): As the Prime Minister sat down with CTV to reflect on the past year, he has worries about the next. Top of mind, a threatening downturn in the American economy that will be felt north of the border.
STEPHEN HARPER (Canadian Prime Minister): I believe that 2008 is likely to be a challenging year in terms of the economy… There's no way we can be completely insulated from what's going on in the United States or in the global economy (CTV National News, December 20, 2007).

The Liberals and the NDP in December 2007

The Liberals and the NDP responded to the Prime Minister’s careful concern by saying the economy was fine and that the Prime Minister was trying to “create a climate of fear.”

The Liberals said the Prime Minister was overstating the risk.

“[John] McCallum said the government is overstating the risks because many experts expect the Canadian economy to grow by up to 2.5 per cent this year, which would leave room for spending and tax initiatives” (Toronto Star, January 1, 2008).

“McCallum accused Harper of sending a confusing message to consumers by combining talk of a tax cut with a warning the economy could be headed for trouble. ‘This is clearly a triumph of gimmickry over good public policy to announce the GST cut in a store and tell us the cupboard is bare,’ said McCallum. ’I think they're trying to downplay expectations and then people will be positively surprised’” (Toronto Star, January 1, 2008).

The Liberals were apparently still unaware of the challenges the crisis proposed when they wrote their platform.

Stéphane Dion recently admitted that ‘It was difficult for us to write a chapter on a U.S. economic crisis when we were preparing our platform’ (Stéphane Dion, Le téléjournal, October 6, 2008).

And Jack Layton and the NDP were not any better. Mr. Layton said that the threat to the economy was “climate change” rather than the collapse of the American housing markets.

“NDP leader Jack Layton accused Mr. Harper of trying to ‘create a climate of fear’ to justify government plans for the economy, as he said the government has done to gain support for the war in Afghanistan and to avoid joining the global fight against climate change. ‘If the economy is getting into some trouble and the government's finances are in some trouble, it's because Mr. Harper has paid no attention to that issue (climate change) at all,’ Mr. Layton said, adding that his party will continue to vote against the government on no-confidence motions” (Ottawa Citizen, December 24, 2007).

JACK LAYTON: “Well I think he is trying to create a climate of fear, and, you know, that's been his approach unfortunately on some issues, whether it was the way in which we have gone to war in Afghanistan” (CTV, Question Period, December 23, 2007)


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