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A long and merciless economic storm

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With you, I stand on the cutting edge of 2009, bracing for a long and merciless economic storm - possibly unlike any my generation, and yours, has ever weathered.

Some insist Canada will be fine; that the world’s economic troubles will miraculously stop at the U.S. border. But reality keeps seeping in, and this forced optimism is starting to feel foolish.

Plant closures; rising bankruptcy rates; sagging housing and car sales.

We lost 100,000 jobs in November and December, which no one predicted.

A volatile stock market has left many aging Canadians' retirement hopes in question.

Formerly promiscuous banks are suddenly clamping down on the credit they're willing to extend – despite a bajillion dollar bailout from Canada's federal government.

Consumer confidence, that code word for you and I spending our money even in tough economic times, is drying up fast.

Homes and lifestyles built on a house of plastic cards are quickly melting into the global credit crunch.

Now is the time for acceptance, not denial. Canada, the world's eighth largest economy, is beginning to show the sighs and heaves of recession. We are not immune.

Yet our federal finance minister glibly promises more tax cuts in this month’s long awaited economic stimulus plan. It’s one thing to promise tax cuts during good times (more on that in future blogs). It’s quite another to pretend it’s a salve for families experiencing the economic burn of recession.

Canadian households have never been in deeper debt and they've never had so little savings. The rainy day is coming fast upon us. We are ill-prepared. And all eyes are on our government. Expectation is great. Will it rise to the occasion?

 

Part of a series on Canada’s changing economy.

 Trish Hennessy is director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' Inequality Project www.growinggap.ca.

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