Analysis: Canadians losing faith in economic "miracle"

Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:16am EDT
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By Louise Egan and Andrea Hopkins

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Factory worker Nelson Claros has little time for talk of the Canadian economic miracle.

The 50-year-old was laid off last year from his job of 22 years at a bus-assembly plant northwest of Toronto, and has since applied for 130 jobs. His best offer: A job at $12 an hour, half his previous wage and not enough to pay his bills.

"Really there is a recession right now. They don't call it a recession, but the companies are closing, there are a lot of layoffs. How can this be a miracle economy?" he asked.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Canada's recovery from a mild 2008-09 recession was quick and job-filled, and the country added nearly 900,000 jobs to take the jobless rate to 7.2 percent from 8.7 percent at the depths of the downturn.

No bank needed a government bailout, the housing market did not collapse and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty repeatedly boasted about how Canada was outperforming its partners in the Group of Seven rich industrialized economies.

But recent growth has consistently fallen short of expectations and a very rough patch late last year turned disappointment into dread. Economists had been betting on a quicker U.S. recovery to boost Canadian exports, as well as a pickup in business spending.

The slowdown could spell trouble for the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which is showing signs of mid-term stress and losing ground in opinion polls to the third largest party, the Liberals.

Policy makers predict a brighter second half of 2013, but people like Claros and business leaders are not so sure.   Continued...

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty addresses the Vancouver Board of Trade in Vancouver, British Columbia March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Clark