Harper won’t talk recession a day before key economic numbers are released

It’s a potentially pivotal moment in the federal election that had federal leaders pirouetting on the campaign trail on Monday.

OTTAWA — It’s a potentially pivotal moment in the federal election that had federal leaders pirouetting on the campaign trail on Monday.

Statistics Canada is to release the second-quarter GDP figures on Tuesday morning and they are expected to show negative growth, which would meet the technical definition of a recession.

On Monday, as the fifth week of the campaign opened, Stephen Harper dodged questions about the definition of a recession. The Conservative leader, running on his party’s economic stewardship, says he won’t get into a discussion of economic technicalities.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair appeared to hedge his bets Monday, allowing for possibility that even if the statistics agency doesn’t confirm a technical recession that’s no reason to let the prime minister off the hook for what he says is the country’s weak financial situation.

Meanwhile, a leading economist questioned all of the political posturing over the economy that’s taken place in the last week.

Don Drummond, the Stauffer-Dunning Fellow at the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University and a former chief economist at TD Bank, said the partisan parsing of economic indicators is ultimately misleading.

Whether the economy contracted or grew by a small fraction of a percentage point, or whether the federal budget is in or out of deficit by a few billion dollars simply doesn’t matter in the terms of the bigger economic picture, he said.

“I think it’s a real travesty because it makes us miss the main point,” Drummond said in an interview Monday.

“The biggest point is: the world, not just Canada, is entering a period of sustained lower growth. Everybody seems to have missed that. You wonder how many times it takes for people to get with that program.”

For Drummond, that means accepting that the annual growth rates of four or five per cent of the last decade won’t be on the horizon any time soon. Get used to two per cent growth and that economy is now weaker overall.

“It’s weak regardless whether the number is minus 0.1 or plus 0.1. It makes absolutely no difference,” Drummond said.

“I’m one of those dull economists that doesn’t think it really matters if the number is a slight negative or a slight positive.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said he would run what he called modest deficits to 2019 in order to pay for new infrastructure investments that he deems necessary to grow the economy.

Harper and Mulcair promise balanced budgets and are critical of Trudeau.

But both Mulcair and Trudeau accuse Harper of driving the country into a recession, basing their attacks on the most recent Statistics Canada monthly figures that showed negative growth in the first five months of the year.

Harper wasn’t interested Monday in talking about how he defines a recession.

“I haven’t got into that debate,” Harper told reporters in Ottawa.

He reiterated his stay-the-course message, insisting that the overall economy is strong because only the weakness is in the energy sector.

“The question for Canadians is what do you do with that? Because of this temporary effect, do we now plunge our country into a series of permanent deficits and tax hikes? We thank that is precisely the wrong answer,” Harper said.

Harper made no mention of the fact that other sectors beyond energy are also hurting. According to the most recent figures, several other sectors declined between May 2014 and May 2015, including durable manufacturing industries which fell by 4.8 per cent and industrial production, which fell by four per cent.

Mulcair, meanwhile, appeared to make an allowance Monday for the possibility that Tuesday’s data release might not show a contraction, as most observers expect.

“The classical technical definition is: two quarters in a row of negative growth is a recession . . . this is a technical definition,” Mulcair said, but added: “Whatever is in that report, it’s not going to change the fact that Stephen Harper’s plan is not working.”

Mulcair reiterated two statistics that he said backed that up: 200,000 more unemployed since the 2008 recession and the loss of 400,000 manufacturing jobs.

Trudeau had no campaign events scheduled on Monday.

Just Posted

Ham radio operators in central Alberta tune in

Amateur radio enthusiasts in central Alberta tuned in for the weekend. Central… Continue reading

Winners crowned at 19th Woody’s Triathlon

The rain held off all weekend and made for great conditions for the more than 500 competitors

‘Clients fall off:’ Calgary program helps recently released prisoners with hep C

CALGARY — Imagine adjusting to life after serving prison time, then add… Continue reading

Five members of the same family now charged in relation to death of Kiran Dhesi

SURREY, B.C. — The RCMP made two arrests on Friday in connection… Continue reading

Rock climber suffers fatal fall on the Stawamus Chief overlooking Squamish, B.C.

SQUAMISH, B.C. — Police say a rock climber fell to his death… Continue reading

WATCH: Hundreds run in the 5K Foam Fest in Red Deer

The annual event took place at Heritage Ranch on Saturday

UK: Police visit incident dogs Johnson’s leadership campaign

LONDON — The leading contender to become Britain’s next prime minister is… Continue reading

Trump: ‘Surprise’ question about Pence led him to hesitate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he hesitated when asked about endorsing… Continue reading

Indigenous drummers lead pipeline protesters on 22-kilometre march in Victoria

VICTORIA — The government approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion won’t stop… Continue reading

Retired UBC professor Peter Winterburn killed in Chile, school confirms

VALPARAISO, Chile — A retired geochemistry professor from the University of British… Continue reading

Sask. Premier Scott Moe participates in Pride parade in Saskatoon

SASKATOON — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe participated in his first Pride parade… Continue reading

Parents of soldier killed in parachute exercise ask for thorough investigation

OTTAWA — The remains of the Canadian soldier killed in a parachute-training… Continue reading

Despite billions in new spending, Duclos still sees ‘affordability’ gaps

OTTAWA — Despite billions of dollars in new spending over the last… Continue reading

Most Read