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Canada's Business

by Bruce Whitestone

A government assessment after one year in office

After one year there should be an assessment of the Prime Minister’s administration.

It is worth comparing the same interval of Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s. That should be the benchmark after a long period of Liberal government.

It should be noted in the interests of full disclosure that this correspondent was a special assistant to Prime Minister Diefenbaker in 1957 and later, economist of his Progressive Conservative Party.

The Canadian national debt in 2015 was $612 billion and rose to over $622 billion in Trudeau’s first year.  Through Diefenbaker’s first year, the Canadian national debt rose from $6.4 billion to $6.5 billion; much less.

 In 1957 unemployment reached 370,000 or 6% with immigration at 124,851 and now in 2016, the unemployed numbers are 1,363,000 or 7% with immigration at 320,932. 

Given those numbers in 1957, Diefenbaker suspended all immigration until unemployment reached a lower level; this despite sympathy for all immigrants. When the numbers were less worrisome, he still believed in helping our unemployed first.

Fiscally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is less restrained and has done nothing about unemployment. In his first year Diefenbaker increased the Old Age Pension to $45, an increase of $6 per month.  Later that year, he raised that amount to $65 per month.

Relations with the United States thrived as Diefenbaker got along very well with then-President Eisenhower. To improve Canada’s fiscal situation, a bond issue of 4.5 per cent of 1983 was extended for 10 years.  This gave the government more freedom.

Relations with Communist China were boosted and trade with Cuba was increased by a major export of trucks.

Regarding foreign trade, Trudeau recently signed a trade agreement with the European Union, while Diefenbaker called for a Commonwealth Conference to determine if our exports could receive a boost from that source but not much occurred for some time.

Under Diefenbaker, the Avro Aero plane was developed but the U.S. government did its best to limit its purchase. This led to dismantling of that plane and he was criticized for it even though there was not a viable alternative. Too, for the sake of national unity, our banking system was made bilingual.

All in all, it is too early to make more than a preliminary judgement, but the Diefenbaker years were at least more independent and innovative.

By comparison, Trudeau’s first year was not as creative nor financially responsible, revealing less spendthrift tendencies.



Vol 49 Issue 47


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