Preston Manning is the founder of the Manning Centre and the former leader of the Reform Party of Canada.
Sooner or later – and preferably sooner – Canadians will come to realize that the country is headed into a financial and economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude with, as yet, no realistic plan or demonstrated capacity on the part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government to deal with it.
That crisis will bring astronomical government deficits and debt levels with no plan for reducing them, other than imposing record levels of taxation and service reductions on future generations.
There will be increasing financial uncertainty as a result of the federal government borrowing or simply printing money to finance temporary relief measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There will be record levels of unemployment and business failures through the contraction of the Canadian economy, with no convincing national plan for restoring investor, consumer, labour, or public confidence in the country’s economic future.
And there will be increased tensions with the provinces, seriously threatening national unity, in the absence of any coordinated federal-provincial effort to achieve economic recovery.
Once the general public begins to appreciate the magnitude and consequences of this economic crisis and the seeming inability of the Trudeau government to adequately address it, the loss of confidence in that government could well lead to demands for its replacement.
But regardless of the nature and magnitude of the political fallout from COVID-19, what is needed as soon as possible is a national economic recovery plan capable of restoring investor and public confidence in the country’s economic future. Since the development of such a plan is not likely to be forthcoming from the federal government or Parliament, a National Economic Recovery Council should be established to create it and to vigorously press it upon the parties and candidates prior to the next federal election.
In the absence of leadership from the federal government, it is the provincial and territorial governments which should take the lead in the creation and support of this Council, just as Premier Jason Kenney has taken the lead in establishing an Economic Emergency Council for Alberta and Premier Scott Moe has put forward a staged recovery plan for Saskatchewan.
The National Economic Recovery Council will require representation from every province and territory, as well as from the major sectors of the economy. The business representation will be especially important, since, in the end, it will be a revitalized private sector that serves as the engine of economic recovery with the governments in a supportive role, not the converse.
The proposed National Economic Recovery Council will also require access to the very best economic and financial advice possible, just as the best medical advice has been sought to cope with the health impacts of COVID-19. It will need access to the very best communications expertise possible, in order to effectively communicate the key elements of the economic recovery plan to the politicians and the public. And it will require a willingness and capacity to press the economic recovery plan upon all the parties and candidates contesting the next federal election, clearly identifying those who back it and urging the public to support them.
What are the first steps required to give legs to this initiative? We must begin by placing the concept of the National Economic Recovery Council on the agenda of the provincial and territorial premiers, and urging for them to grow the scope of their public focus and private work around COVID-19 to include economic effects, as well.
Then, provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, industry associations, advocacy groups, think tanks, and academic institutions will need to take action to begin formulating economic recovery proposals for submission to the National Economic Recovery Council once established.
What is especially required of those making input to that Council is something more than criticisms or endless analysis of the status quo. What is most urgently required are action proposals which, if implemented, would make a real difference to Canada’s economic future.
And who will be the primary beneficiaries of such initiatives and actions? The millions of Canadians who stand to suffer a drastic drop in their incomes, employment prospects, and standard of living if economic recovery is further delayed or mismanaged.
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