Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Much has been said about Stephen Harper's strategy of "staying the course" with respect to the Canadian economy. The obvious response is "The economy is doing terribly, and you're going to do nothing?"

One newspaper columnist, Randall Denley of the Ottawa Citizen, made the following comparison. "If our economy were a boat drifting toward Niagara Falls, Dion would form a committee to consult about the wisdom of getting out the oars, Layton would blame the oil companies, May would praise the falls’ green power and Harper would pretend the sound of the roaring water was nothing to worry about."

I would like to offer you an alternative aquatic analogy. Back home, we have the Hamilton Harbour (or Burlington Bay). Due to the geography of the bay and years of industrial irresponsibility on the part of Stelco, and probably other steel mills in the city, there is a mass of waste sitting at the bottom of the bay. One of my undergraduate profs was involved with the over all improvement of the area around the bay, including what to do with this industrial waste. They explored a number of options, and even attempted a few. In the end they concluded that the best thing to do was to just leave it be [1]. It doesn't fix the problem, of course, but it also doesn't make a bad situation worse.

So the economy is either a mass of toxic sludge on the bottom of a bay, or it's a boat floating down a river toward a waterfall. At most one of these analogies fits. I am not an economist, I am not well informed on the conditions that led to the current crisis in the United States, and I have not been examining local and provincial issues for the Citizen for 16 years, first as city editor, and for the last 11 years as city columnist. So I don't know which analogy is appropriate, if any. At least now, though, you have a choice.

[1] It was at least 4 years ago that I last heard him speak on this subject. I don't know what the state of the sludge is currently.

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