The TJ has a piece today about good old RB Bennet, the PM back in the Great Depression who was turfed in 1935.
You can pull many messages out of this story but my thought was less about the depression itself and more about the impact of these downturns on politicians. On the one hand, politicians inevitably use the recession/depression to say “it’s not my fault”. I heard the former Ontario NDP finance minister making this case recently. It becomes abundantly clear at all levels of politics that the recession becomes an excuse for either non-existent or bad policy making.
At the federal level, I find it fascinating that the PM was just a few months ago disclaiming the impact of the recession and taking a wait and see attitude. After the attempted ouster, he became the greatest prophet of doom of all invoking the Depression terminology before anyone else. My first thought was that this was an attempt to leverage the recession for political gain. To convince voters that during these tough times you need a ‘steady hand’ but the Liberal leader Iggy has been growing in popularity.
Based on a cursory review of the success/failure of politicians during past recessions, the diagnosis for sitting governments is not good. They tend to get turfed particularly if the recession is in full bore during or near the election campaign.
The only thing I can say here is that politicians would be wise to position themselves as investing the public funds wisely these days. It is likely that no politicans will call for major cuts to spending opting to roll back into deficits instead to limit the political impact.
I think the current government would be wise to put longer term economic development considerations ahead of short term stimulus issues – particularly here in New Brunswick. If I hear the term “shovel ready” one more time I think I’ll start hitting myself over the head with one. Politicians can look and act a lot like Lemmings.
Not to beat the point to death but more spending on bridges, roads, etc. will not help NB’s long term economic growth – which is what we must be focused on.