’Round and ’Round with Economic Indicators!
Apropos last Friday’s post about a Statscan report which noted that Canada’s rising incomes are being generated not by big cities but by hinterland resource extraction: I was cleaning out some files today and came across this tidbit, a July report from TD’s Don Drummond (a man whose words Candian politicians listen to carefully) about how Toronto’s standard of living has been plummeting. (You may remember reading about it. It was released last July 17, the day Miller lost his tax vote.) Anyway, put the two reports together and the picture isn’t pretty: the country as a whole is firing on all cylinders while jalopy Toronto sputters along.
Admittedly it’s an incomplete picture, but that only puts it on par with every other report on the city’s economy. I have, over the course of the past year, come to believe that there is no independent arbiter who is willing to offer a sound, trustworthy, impartial assessment of Toronto’s economy. The city is full of contradictory signals. Incomes are up yet manufacturing and exports are down. The transit system is overloaded, as is the entire roads network, yet the city’s not keeping up in terms of job creation. Yet it’s impossible to find a cogent appraisal of the situation because in the left-versus-right political battle to capture the hearts and minds of the city’s residents, each side just leans heavily on the indicators that best suit their own purposes.
I have a sneaking suspicion that part of what’s keeping the city afloat is its massive public sector—its provincial and municipal bureaucracies, as well as its federal jobs, from the Revenue Canada hotline staffers to the hacks over at the Port Authority. But that too is a political hot potato, isn’t it? I can hear the rallying cries from the left (Public sector jobs have been our saving grace!) and the right (The city needs more entrepreneurship!) ringing in my head already. The irony is that they’d both be right. But they’d never dare to agree on anything or to find a common way forward.