The sting is in the tail

Do not be fooled into complacency this year by any suggestion of “the lazy days of summer”. There is the very distinct possibility that at the end of this summer we may be face two not so surprising but very unpleasant surprises.

The first surprise may be that, for one reason or another or for a variety of reasons, we end up in October with a fourth consecutive Conservative government in Ottawa. Just the thought brings on a shudder. If we tried to imagine our worst nightmare, this would be it.

The second nightmare is unfortunately a lot more likely: the symptoms and consequences of a deepening Canadian recession may begin to take centre stage.

The labor market disaster that The Caribbean Camera predicted in April last year begins to cement its hold on us. The Canadian dollar continues its decline in tandem with a persistent drop in energy prices (increased U.S. domestic production of oil and gas, plus the return of Iran to full export capacity and Saudi Arabia continuing to flood the oil market). Before the year ends, the Bank of Canada flails its arms helplessly and introduces a third cut in interest rates, while the OECD downgrades its short-term outlook for the performance of the Canadian economy.

Let us try to change to a more positive perspective in context of the fact our economy is not as yet in a state of advanced decomposition as in many other countries. We are vulnerable but not yet pathologically infected.

We remain alert for any significant drop in our GDP, our productivity and our level of unemployment. We finally focus on the signs and effects of chronic, structural under-employment. We hope and pray for the upturn in the U.S. economy to stimulate some improvement in our exports, our manufacturing sector and our attractiveness for Canadian and foreign investment in our economy.

To give life to such a more-positive perspective, we need a new federal government because, for strong ideological reasons, the Conservatives reject out of hand the type of policy re-orientation that is required, while the Liberals and the NDP can be convinced to change the current and traditional course on which our ship of state has been embarked for too many decades.

The good news in that regard is that many if not most of the premiers of our provinces and territories are very much open to such change and in fact are taking two steps in that direction. Over the last year or two, some have been accelerating their provincial policy work in areas of energy, environmental management, physical infrastructure, finance and safety net / social welfare management. Simultaneously, they have begun to consult each other and to draw up plans and agreements for joint policy and action in these same fields.

They are taking the lead in the face of the unwillingness or failure of the Harper government to take the lead in developing national policy in these vital areas.

This is a good sign for our country’s future. But the future has to be planned and built now. For the reasons given in this Editorial, time is of the essence in fending off economic disaster.

Let us do what we have to do to ward off the two stings that are threatening to move against us at the end of this summer.