The Canadian Austerity Success Story

The Canadian Austerity Success Story | 12/07/12
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

The Canadian success story on deficit elimination, debt reduction and significantly, strengthening the economy by adding jobs and improved economic performance during troubled economic times has been well-documented.

The Canadian icon known as MacLeans Magazine featured an outstanding piece by LEAH McLAREN in the October 10, 2011 edition entitled I told you so – which covered Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron‘s speech to a joint session of the Canadian Parliament (both the Senate and the House of Commons) where PM David Cameron made a number of positive comments regarding Canada’s economic success.

Cameron commented:

“Canada got every major decision right” in the past few years of global market turmoil. He lauded the strength of both the Canadian banking system and our economic leaders, who, he said, “got to grips with its deficit” and were “running surpluses and paying down debt before the recession, fixing the roof while the sun was shining.”

Cameron’s admiration for Canada’s relatively peachy fiscal position stands in stark contrast to his dim view of his Eurozone neighbours. On the topic of Europe and the U.S. getting their own houses in order, Cameron said; “This is not a traditional, cyclical recession – it’s a debt crisis…”

He went on to say;

“When the fundamental problem of the level of debt and the fear of those levels, then the usual economic prescriptions cannot be applied.” – MacLean’s Magazine.

Read the entire article here…

MacLean’s is not the only publisher to write on this topic. Canada’s Globe & Mail have also published articles discussing the Canadian economic success story of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

A seminal article by LOUISE EGAN and RANDALL PALMER ran in the Nov 21, 2011 edition of the G&M entitled The lesson from Canada on cutting deficits — a short excerpt of which appears below. Please take the time to read and save the entire article.

“Finance officials bit their nails and nervously watched the clock. There were 30 minutes left in a bond auction aimed at funding the deficit and there was not a single bid.

Sounds like today’s Italy or Greece?

No, this was Canada in 1994.

Bids eventually came in, but that close call, along with downgrades and The Wall Street Journal calling Canada “an honorary member of the Third World,” helped the nation’s people and politicians understand how scary its budget problem was.

“There would have been a day when we would have been the Greece of today,” recalled then prime minister Jean Chrétien, a Liberal who ended up chopping cherished social programs in one of the most dramatic fiscal turnarounds ever.

“I knew we were in a bind and we had to do something,” Mr. Chrétien, 77, told Reuters in a rare interview.

Canada’s shift from pariah to fiscal darling provides lessons for Washington as lawmakers find few easy answers to the huge U.S. deficit and debt burden, and for European countries staggering under their own massive budget problems.

“Everyone wants to know how we did it,” said political economist Brian Lee Crowley, head of the Ottawa-based think tank, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has examined the lessons of the 1990’s.

But to win its budget wars, Canada first had to realize how dire its situation was and then dramatically shrink the size of government rather than just limit the pace of spending growth.

It would eventually oversee the biggest reduction in Canadian government spending since demobilization after the Second World War. The big cuts, and relatively small tax increases, brought a budget surplus within four years.

Canadian debt shrank to 29 per cent of gross domestic product in 2008-09 from a peak of 68 per cent in 1995-96, and the budget was in the black for 11 consecutive years until the 2008-09 recession.

For Canada, the vicious debt circle turned into a virtuous cycle that rescued a currency that had been dubbed the “northern peso.” Canada went from having the second worst fiscal position in the Group of Seven industrialized countries, behind only Italy, to easily the best.

It is far from a coincidence that the recent recession was shorter and shallower in Canada than in the United States. Indeed, by January, Canada had recovered all the jobs lost in the downturn, while the U.S. has hardly been able to dent its high unemployment.

“We used to thank God that Italy was there because we were the second worst in the G7,” said Scott Clark, associate deputy finance minister in the 1990’s.

Canada’s experience turned on its head the prevailing wisdom that spending promises were the easiest way to win elections. Politicians of all kinds and at all levels of government learned that austerity could win.”  read more…

For those unfamiliar with examples of successful austerity, Canada holds great promise. There are others to discuss in the coming days – which will illustrate austerity can actually lessen the unfavourable effects of decades of excessive spending by governments and improve the economic position of a nation.

Canada – Resource Boom or Manufacturing Boom? Why Not Both!

by John Brian Shannon

I’m a big fan of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. You can’t argue with success and the province has excelled with Brad Wall as premier. Well done on all counts, Premier Wall.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has a point, however. By devaluing the dollar, a huge part of Canada’s economy (almost 50%) could ALSO start to perform at a high level instead of continuing to sputter along at half-speed.

Not just the resource-based provinces romping along as they have been doing — but manufacturing provinces could return to full performance.

For manufacturing, a lower dollar will drive the demand of exports higher, Canadian production will ramp up, employment will increase. And we all know where – Ontario which is Canada’s largest ‘value added‘ economic zone.

Some people use the term manufacturing, but I call it what it really is, value-added. We take our provincially-owned raw resources and add value to those resources by manufacturing something from them or processing them, instead of merely selling our finite resources out of the country and getting nothing more from them.

Manufacturing has stalled in Canada, due in part to Canada’s strong dollar – our exports have become uncompetitive over the years as the dollar has risen. A direct correlation exists between those two stats.

If you want the biggest economic engine in Canada to suddenly begin to receive larger volumes of orders from other countries including the U.S. our biggest trading partner, causing those goods to become cheaper is the way to go.

Devaluing the Canadian dollar has NO EFFECT on Canadian consumers at all, unless you are purchasing goods and services from outside Canada. And if you are buying goods from other countries – shame on you – buy Canadian!

If devaluation inconveniences you because you purchase goods from other nations, a booming economy (Cdn resources PLUS Cdn manufacturing) firing on all cylinders should more than make up for it!

Some may wonder about losing our strong resource sector exports, which are already performing very well due to high demand for them in the rest of the world.

The price of raw resources will not drop when demand is so high.

It’s only different in the case of Canadian coal exporters who are facing dropping demand, which equals lower prices ($192.86 in July 2008, now at $99.75 in May 2012) devaluation could help, however, as a lower price will increase demand.

Those coal quotes are the 60 month (thermal coal) contract price from indexmundi.com — but are representative of world thermal coal price trends: http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=coal-australian&months=60

It is better to sell lots of coal at $85.00 per metric tonne, than hardly any at all at $100.00 per metric tonne.

Tourism to Canada would also receive a major boost as our prices would become more affordable due to devaluation of our dollar.

So, what’s the downside of getting Canada’s manufacturing sector and related (which together represent up to 50% of Canada’s economy) again firing on all cylinders — by devaluing the dollar by up to 20%?

As long as demand remains high for gas and oil there should be little downside for Canada’s resource-based provincial economies, as that high demand dictates prices will stay the same, or continue to increase.

I can understand Premier Wall’s concerns for Saskatchewan’s resource and agriculture based economy – but at this point in time, world demand remains high for all resources – and for coal too – but only at the right price.

Follow John Brian Shannon on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JBSCanada

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