Canada’s economy is hot:
The economy is on a roll, the stock market is soaring, jobs are plentiful, borrowing costs are low, consumer spending is strong and real estate is booming.
That’s from a bizarre editorial in today’s Vancouver Sun; an editorial that goes on to argue that Canada’s—and especially BC’s—recent boom is a chimera. The piece rightly points out some troubling counter trends, such as strong GDP growth coupled with anemic income growth for workers. But some of the article’s assertions are quite plainly wrong—or at least misleading enough that it’s tough to buy the anti-tax message the editorial is peddling.
Among the claims that don’t add up:
In 1981, Canadian incomes were more than 80 per cent of American incomes. That figure has dropped to 67 per cent. In other words, our standard of living is now a third lower than that of our neighbours.
To be sure, if those figures are right, that’s a worrisome trend for Canadians. But that’s not at all the same as saying that Canadian standards of living are a third lower than Americans. Direct international income comparisons can be all but meaningless—like a business looking only at revenues but not at expenditures. To name just two of many items that chip away at Americans’ income: health care and education are far, far less expensive in Canada. And in the US those the cost of those essential goods are drastically outstripping inflation. There’s probably some North American disparity in the standard of living, but it’s almost certainly not a third.
The editorial continues:
While additional spending on social services like health care and eduction are things Canadians desire, they are certainly not getting their money’s worth.
The best single indicator of health outcomes, life expectancy, puts Canada in the top 5 countries in the world. And if BC were its own nation, it would rank second behind only Japan. By contrast, the United States ranks 19th, just behind Barbados. (Other measures put Canada at 8th best and the US at 29th.)
Similarly, international comparisons put Canadian education as among the very best in the world, often in the top 3. Where’s the US? Way, way behind.
I’m not saying that the editorial’s claims are entirely without merit. There may be reason to be concerned about Canada’s economic growth. Rising income inequality, for instance, may point to problems. But the editorial’s fawning over light taxation in the US should be taken with a grain of salt.