Blogs & Comment

No surprises in Harper's economic update

If you hadn’t heard, June 11, 2009 was economic update day! Speaking to a crowd in Cambridge, Ont. earlier this morning Stephen Harper outlined just how the Conservatives were handling the economy. Judging by all the exclamation marks littered throughout the text of his speech, I’d say he thinks they’re doing a pretty good job!
The speech, which began with an introduction by former CTV host-turned-senator Mike Duffy, essentially championed all the work the government has done since the budget was passed and once again reiterated that Canada will come of of this recession faster and stronger than any other G7 nation.
Harper said that “a fully 80% of our plan’s funding has been committed and is being implemented across the country” and that “3,000 individual projects across the country are now getting underway no small feat only 72 days into a new fiscal year.”
Then he listed off a bunch of initiatives that have been started, or will get off the ground soon, like the Summerside Wind Farm in PEI and the rapid transit system in Toronto.
He also (naturally) chastised the opposition for wanting to call an election and “change this course.” Harper said: “We face demands from the opposition to spend literally tens of billions of dollars more and to make stimulus spending permanent.”
While there wasn’t anything surprising in the speech, and he didn’t announce anything new, there were some issues he didn’t address.
The big one was Ontario’s economy. While he talked about forestry, fishing, mining and tourism, or the “traditional industries” as he said, he didn’t mention the manufacturing sector at all. The only play the auto industry received was in this paragraph:

Ladies and gentlemen, I could go on for some time. I haven’t even talked about our efforts to expand the accessibility and affordability of credit, or the joint measures we are pursuing internationally, such as what we’ve had to do on the auto sector, for example.

The manufacturing industry’s slowdown is a big reason why this country is in a recession, so it was curious that he didn’t make a single reference to what’s being done to help that sector.
He did talk a lot about taxes, how the Conservatives have cut them to their lowest level in 50 years, and about the “affordable” deficit. However, there was no mention of Jim Flaherty’s prediction that we’d start seeing small surpluses in 2012-2013. Not sure if that’s still the game plan now that the deficit is projected to be $50.2 billion this year.
Overall, the speech was positive, rosy and optimistic. The Liberals will likely say Harper’s out of touch, as they always do when he gives an uplifting economic speech. In the past it’s been hard to buy, but now, as people are coming to terms with the state of economy and with consumer confidence on the rise, optimism might finally start working for the Conservatives. But now attention is turned to Michael Ignatieff and whether or not this relatively non-controversial speech warrants toppling the government.