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Federal government clearly misstates its economic record

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4 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Jock Finlayson

“since 2015 Canada has posted some of the weakest economic growth numbers, measured on a per-person basis, in half a century”

“Denominator blindness” refers to situations where people fail to put what seem to be big numbers into proper context. The affliction is especially common among governments seeking to justify their spending and other policy decisions. In Canada, denominator blindness has become a central feature of the narratives peddled by many politicians.

For example, the Trudeau government’s recent economic update, which includes a forward by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland where she notes that the International Monetary Fund expects Canada to have “the strongest economic growth in the G7 next year.” She also insists her government is fostering economic growth that “creates middle class jobs, raises incomes, and makes middle class communities more prosperous.”

Both claims lack context and misstate the government’s economic record.

Prosperity is measured using both a numerator, typically the amount of output the economy produces in a year, and a denominator, the size of the population. A larger population means the economic pie must be divided into more slices to estimate how much “output” is available to the average resident. With a rapidly expanding population, the economy must generate a lot more output merely to stop the individual pie slices from shrinking.

Minister Freeland is correct that Canada’s economy has been growing, both since the worst of the COVID shock in late-2020/early-2021 and over the period when the Trudeau government has been in power. But she ignores the bigger picture, which shows two important things.

First, since 2015 Canada has posted some of the weakest economic growth numbers, measured on a per-person basis, in half a century. The pattern of feeble economic growth was evident before the onset of COVID.

Second, Canada is among the few advanced economies where output or gross domestic product (GDP) per person in 2023 has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels. In part, this reflects surging population growth, which affects the denominator that helps determine whether economic growth is producing gains in average incomes and living standards. In Canada’s case, modest economic growth combined with a skyrocketing population has resulted in a multi-year decline in per-person income and erosion of overall prosperity. Adjusted for inflation, GDP per person is still 2 per cent lower than in 2019.

Denominator blindness also characterizes recent attempts by the federal, Ontario and Quebec governments to explain why they’re allocating up to $50 billion in subsidies and tax incentives to lure a handful of electric vehicle battery manufacturers to Canada. The politicians making these decisions point to the several thousand jobs the EV manufacturing facilities will support once they are fully operational. But they won’t discuss how this fits within the larger job market.

Total employment in Canada is 20.1 million, with almost 1.8 million jobs in manufacturing. The vast sums being thrown at EV battery manufacturers will have essentially no impact on the aggregate job numbers and barely make a ripple, even in the manufacturing sector. Moreover, not all the promised EV jobs will be “new” positions—many workers attracted to the EV industry will likely be drawn from other businesses, worsening skill shortages that are plaguing Canadian manufacturers.

Perhaps aspiring politicians should be required to study the basic arithmetic of fractions before they run for office.

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Economy

Taxpayer watchdog slams Trudeau gov’t for increasing debt ceiling: ‘Put down the credit card’

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland authorized an additional $73 billion in borrowing this fiscal year.

After Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland gave herself and the government the authority to borrow an additional $73 billion this fiscal year, the head of the nation’s leading taxpayer watchdog group said the federal government needs to “put down the credit card” and return to common-sense spending.

Freeland, as per a February 15 cabinet order made under the Financial Administration Act, allowed the extra borrowing to take place.

The government has set “$517 billion to be the maximum aggregate principal amount of money that may be borrowed” before April 1. Before this cabinet order, however, the maximum amount was $444 billion.

Despite Freeland claiming that the increase in borrowing is “in no way a blank cheque,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano said the borrowing needs to end.

“The Trudeau government needs to put down the credit card and pick up some scissors,” Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews.

“The government should be cutting spending and balancing the budget, not racking up more debt for years to come.”

In 2021, Canada’s Parliament raised the federal debt borrowing amount by a whopping 56% under the Borrowing Authority Act. The amount went from $1.168 trillion to $1.831 trillion.

“What it does is set a ceiling for how much the government can spend,” Freeland said at the time.

Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews that the Trudeau government should be cutting spending and balancing the budget, not racking up more debt for years to come.

Terrazzano observed that in the coming year the Trudeau government will be spending “more money on debt interest charges than it sends to the provinces in health transfers.”

“In a handful of years, every penny collected from the GST (Goods and Service Tax) will go toward paying interest on the debt,” he noted.

Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, due to excessive COVID money printing, inflation has skyrocketed.

Last month, LifeSiteNews reported that fast-rising food costs in Canada have led to many people feeling a sense of “hopelessness and desperation” with nowhere to turn for help, according to the Canadian government’s own National Advisory Council on Poverty.

Last year, the Bank of Canada acknowledged that Trudeau’s federal “climate change” programs, which have been deemed “extreme” by some provincial leaders, are indeed helping to fuel inflation.

Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews that Trudeau should “completely scrap his carbon tax,” which is making everything more expensive.

Conservatives blast increased debt

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MPs have been critical of the raised debt ceiling. “You’re simply saying, ‘Give me a blank cheque and then trust me,’” MP Ed Fast said.

Freeland claimed that the “characterization of the borrowing authority limit as a blank cheque is simply false.”

CPC leader Pierre Poilievre recently asked, “Is there a dollar figure to which she would limit the debt?”

She replied that the government is “mindful that limits exist.”

During a February 13 Senate national finance committee meeting, Budget Officer Yves Giroux noted how Trudeau’s cabinet plans in terms of spending are not clear.

“We don’t know exactly what the government plans on spending or doing in terms of new spending or potential spending,” he said when asked by Senator Elizabeth Marshall if the new borrowing limits are “still realistic.”

Marshall added, “As it stands now, do you think it looks reasonable?”

“It looks sufficient, but the government always wants to give itself some room to maneuver in case there are unforeseen events that require borrowing on short notice,” Giroux replied.

A report from September 5, 2023, by Statistics Canada shows food prices are rising faster than headline inflation at a rate of between 10% and 18% per year.

According to a recent Statistics Canada survey of supermarket prices, Canadians are paying 12% more for carrots, 14% more for hamburger (ground meat), and 27% more for baby formula.

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Energy

A carbon tax by any other name

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From Canadians for Affordable Energy

Written By Dan McTeague

It turns out that the story circulating last week from The Toronto Star that the Liberals were considering a “rebranding” of their Carbon Taxation program was true. On Wednesday the Liberals announced that the previously known “Climate Action Incentive Payment,” will now be referred to as the “Canada Carbon Rebate.” This was done “in an attempt to tackle what it calls confusion and misconceptions about the scheme.”

According to Liberal Minister Seamus O’Regan “If we can speak the language that people speak, because people say the words ‘carbon,’ they say the words, ‘rebate,’ right? And if we can speak that language, that’s important, so people understand what’s going on here.”

The Liberals seem to actually believe that the problem Canadians have with the carbon tax, and their growing support for Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives to “Axe the Tax,” has simply been a matter of Canadians not “understand[ing] what is going on.”

The implication, of course, is that Canadians aren’t really struggling to pay their bills, feed their families and heat their homes right now. That their lives haven’t gotten more expensive overall as the cost of fuel has risen steadily.

That they’re just confused by poor branding — probably some high-priced marketing firm’s fault, really — and that once Trudeau & Co. find the right words, people will finally be happy to pay the tax, and be grateful to get some of their money back, since doing so will — somehow — save the planet.

Which is ridiculous.

It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t even the first time Trudeau’s carbon tax has been rebranded. You might recall that prior to 2018, the scheme was referred to as “carbon pricing” or simply the “carbon tax.” If you look back at Hansard records — the records of Parliamentary debate — you can see that in October 2018, Liberal MPs began referring to the scheme as a ‘price on pollution.’ Of course, calling carbon dioxide, a gas on which all life on earth depends, “pollution” was an obvious attempt to justify taxing Canadians for it.

But no matter what they call the thing, they are determined not to let it go.

Recent polls have indicated that the carbon tax is losing support from Canadians. A Nanos poll showed nearly half of Canadians think the carbon tax is ineffective; another poll indicates most Canadians want it reduced or killed altogether.

So why are the Liberals clinging so desperately to this tax that Canadians don’t support? Going so far as to rebrand, reframe, recommunicate rather than scrap it?

I might start to sound like a broken record here, but the only way to understand the context of the carbon tax, the second carbon tax (the Clean Fuel Standard,) an emissions cap, electric vehicle mandates and on and on, is to recognize that they are all components of the insane Net-Zero-by-2050 scheme dreamed up by Justin Trudeau and his UN and World Economic Forum cronies.

A carbon tax is simply one of the pillars of their Net Zero Agenda which they contend will enable Canada to achieve this nebulous goal of Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Though apparently to achieve it, the tax will need to get progressively more punishing. On April 1 the carbon tax goes up another $15, to $80 per ton, and will continue to rise yearly until it hits $170 a ton in 2030. Canadians are already feeling the pinch and it is hard to imagine it getting worse. But Liberals aren’t concerned with the struggles of everyday people and that is the reality. This has become a communications issue to them, not an existential one.

As to the new name itself, the Trudeau Liberals love to pay lip service to their rebate scheme and claim that Canadians are getting back more than they pay. But as we well know even the Independent Parliamentary Budget Officer found that, contrary to what their talking point, a substantial majority of households are paying more in carbon taxes than they get back.

Their communications plan too is so unhinged that they are pitching the carbon tax as an affordability measure designed to help struggling Canadians. Of course this begs the question: If Canadians are getting back more than they pay in carbon taxes, why take the money in the first place?

The rubber is hitting the road and Canadians have had enough. No matter what it’s called, the carbon tax has made our lives worse.

That will continue to be true, no matter what they call it.

Dan McTeague is President of Canadians for Affordable Energy

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