The Grits would not send us to poorhouse overnight. But their economic policies are not the kind that would tend to enhance our prospects either. And over the longer term, as the population ages and a massive increase in costs meets a shrinking labour force, we are going to need those sorts of policies, desperately. The only way the next generation will be able to afford this generation’s dotage is if they are much wealthier than we are. And the only way that will happen is if we start now to generate much faster rates of annual productivity growth, and go on doing so, year after year, for the next several decades.
Measured against that benchmark, the Liberal platform starts to look more alarming. The Family Pack of social benefits, for students, pensioners, caregivers and so on, may be delightful ideas in themselves. But they come unaccompanied by any comparable concern with producing the wealth to pay for them. .
The document reveals throughout a vision of the economy as a thing, a lump of clay to be pushed, prodded, and massaged to the designs of its government makers — not an interconnected network of millions of individuals, each with their own agendas, values and interests, connected by prices and disciplined by competition, and vastly unknowable to any planner or architect. The latter view would tend to see the productivity question as a matter of allowing individuals greater freedom to innovate, by lowering taxes on investment, and giving them no option but to do so, by lowering barriers to competition. The Liberal approach is rather to offer up yet another program, an Innovation and Productivity Tax Credit, on the theory that a) we don’t have nearly enough of those already, and b) innovation comes from the Canada Revenue Agency.