Depends how you mean "stronger."

Photographer: Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images

Canada's Economic Slide in Five Charts

Christopher Flavelle writes editorials on health care, energy and environment for Bloomberg View. He was a senior policy analyst for Bloomberg Government and chief speechwriter for the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
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Tuesday's announcement that Canada's economy shrank for the first two quarters of 2015, putting the country into a technical recession, puts a little more strain on the ruling Conservative Party's claim of sound economic management, the core of its campaign for next month's federal election. What's more interesting is how long the party has been able to hang on to that mantle.

The charts below show Canada's ranking on the most basic economic indicators relative to other developed countries, first for 2006, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives took office, and then for the latest period for which data is available. For each indicator, the country has slipped.

Individually, any of these economic indicators could perhaps be explained away as the result of adverse circumstances, or just plain bad luck. Taken together, they force the question of how exactly the Conservative government has strengthened Canada's economy after almost a decade in power.

The answer is probably in the final chart, which shows that Canada now spends less of its gross domestic product on social programs than any member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development save for three (Iceland, Estonia and South Korea). Shrinking government has been the overriding goal, and chief accomplishment, of the Conservatives' tenure. Whether you agree or not with the wisdom of that shift, the other charts suggest it hasn't done much for Canada's economic performance.

This doesn't necessarily mean the Conservatives will lose; voters may not trust the other parties to do a better job. But the government's claim to have run the economy well doesn't stand up to a comparison against other OECD countries, and that was true before this week. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Christopher Flavelle at cflavelle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Stacey Shick at sshick@bloomberg.net