Harper said Canada is in a period of enormous uncertainty where forecasts are changing rapidly.
His remarks came a day after the country's parliamentary budget officer said Canada's economy has deteriorated so much since Ottawa introduced its budget that more jobs have already vanished than the $40-billion stimulus package was intended to create.
Kevin Page's latest report shows an economy that plummeted in the first quarter of this year and erased most of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's projections when he tabled the budget in January.
Harper was quick to brush aside Page's claims.
"I think what Mr. Page said yesterday is not remarkable," he said. "Forecasts are going to change very rapidly in this environment."
Harper keeps using this same line, that forecasts are changing rapidly. The problem with his rationalization, EVERY forecast is changing to the DOWNSIDE. Did we miss one forecast that's revisited on the upside since the budget was released? It's as though Harper is saying the government can't reaccess because nobody is sure of the direction since the budget, too unpredictable to put any stock in. If you're "brushing aside" Page, what is the basis?
The simple fact of the matter, since Harper's budget, things have deteriorated further. There are no wild fluctuations, in the way Harper argues, it's all down, down, down, just a question of degree. One would think the government would embrace the universal opinion, instead of stubbornly clinging to outdated information. Harper has all the expert backing he requires to admit further erosion, without necessarily losing credibility. The irony, Harper is putting his credibility on the line, in being so dismissive of the new realities. I actually find it hard to entertain the possibility that Harper actually believes the government numbers, that he hasn't incorporated the freshest information.
Where's the benefit for the government, in refusing to accept a circumstance, which will invariably come back to bite them in the ass? Harper voluntarily lays the groundwork for the "out of touch" meme, and jeopardizes any sense of good management. Today was the perfect example, Harper attempting to re-announce old money, only to be peppered with the apparent disconnect between his stand and what is fast becoming "everybody else". That's the storyline that will haunt Harper, so it's hard to see the upside in not ceding any ground, particularly when it's unclear whether the government would really shoulder blame. If Harper were to embrace the changing forecasts, as evidence of fast changing events that nobody could have foreseen, I suspect he might get something of a pass. That stance can't be worse politically, than "vigorously defending" old news, that nobody is buying. Where are your allies in this argument Mr. Prime Minister?
With each new defence of outdated understandings, I have to wonder what the government is really up to, because for the life of me, I can't think of one rational answer that works.