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GUEST COLUMN: An opinion

G7 rank nothing to crow about

Ben Eisen and Finn Poschmann THE FRASER INSTITUTE


ecent forecasts suggest Canada may compete with the United States for the top spot in the G7 in 2020 for economic growth. Those forecasts include one from the International Monetary

Fund. Political partisans have since flooded social media with

the impressive-sounding factoid that Canada may lead the G7 in growth next year. There’s nothing new about this talking point; partisans trot it out regularly when it suits their purposes. There’s just one problem: Different population growth

rates among G7 countries mean that straight comparisons of gross domestic product (GDP) growth numbers produce skewed results. Canada’s population growth ensures it will almost always be at or near the top of a slow-moving pack. Most G7 countries feature minimal population

increases and weak economic growth. Japan provides the most striking example. With an aging population that shrunk by two million in the past decade, its economy is barely growing. Between 1999 and 2018, average nominal growth in Japan was just 0.2 per cent. Other G7 members (France, Germany and Italy) also

have slow-growing populations and economies. While Canada’s population has grown 1.1 per cent per year in the past decade, Germany’s has grown by 0.4 per cent. Even though it’s composed of some of the richest

countries in the world, the G7 is a slow-growth club and topping the list in topline growth is nothing to crow about. Because population is growing a little faster in Canada

Three times lucky ... hockey comes to TV ... town named for gusher In 1935, the first practical version of radar was

Feb. 23 On this date: In 1836, the siege of the Alamo began in San Antonio,

Texas. Mexican troops under Gen. Santa Anna eventually wiped out the American garrison. Among those killed was frontiersman Davy Crockett. In 1885, in Devonshire, England, John

Lee became the only man to survive hanging three times. His death sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison. In 1893, the Stanley Cup was awarded

for the first time to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association team. In 1990, rookie Vancouver Tory MP Kim

Campbell became Canada’s first female justice minister. She also served as defence minister in the Mulroney cabinet before winning the Tory leadership in June 1993 and briefly serving as prime minister.

Feb. 24 In 1446, the earliest known lottery was

drawn in Bruges, Belgium. In 1938, nylon was produced for the first time in

Arlington, N.J., for use as toothbrush bristles. It also quickly became popular in women’s stockings. In 1981, Prince Charles became engaged to Lady Diana

Spencer. They were married that July 29th. In 1993, Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster Danny

Gallivan died at age 75. He was the English voice of the Montreal Canadiens from 1952-84, heard regularly on “Hockey Night in Canada,” where he entertained fans with such expressions as a “cannonading drive” and “scintillating save.”

the first revolving barrel multi-shot firearm. In 1884, a company that would later become Inco

began mining operations at Sudbury, Ont. Today, Inco is part of Vale, a huge global mining company with operations on five continents. In 1940, the New York Rangers beat the Montreal

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Canadiens 6-2 at Madison Square Garden in the world’s first televised hockey game. It was aired on Westinghouse station W2XBS. In 1991, the Warsaw Pact, created by the Soviet Union

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and other eastern European countries as a counter-force to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, voted to dissolve on March 31.

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any use of this material you must first obtain the permission of the

Feb. 26 In 1802, French author Victor Hugo was born. The

author of “Les Miserables” and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” died in 1885. In 1915, flame throwers were used in battle for the first

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demonstrated by Scottish inventor Robert Watson-Watt. In 1993, a bomb built by Islamic extremists exploded in

the parking garage under New York’s World Trade Center, killing six and injuring more than 1,000 people. Four were convicted the following year and sentenced to life in prison.

Feb. 27 In 1860, former Illinois Congressman

Abraham Lincoln delivered a widely acclaimed speech in which he argued against the expansion of slavery into the western territories, telling listeners at Cooper Union in New York that “right makes might.” In 1917, women in Ontario won the

IN HISTORY this week

right to vote in provincial elections. In 1933, Germany’s parliament building in Berlin, the Reichstag, burned down. The Nazis, charging a Communist plot, used the fire as a pretext for suspending civil liberties. In 1963, Mickey Mantle signed a $100,000 contract with the New York

Yankees. At the time, it was the biggest contract ever signed in major league baseball.

Feb. 28 In 1860, an oil gusher was discovered in Enniskillen,

Ont., a town later re-named Petrolia. In 1931, the Canadian Rugby Union adopted the

forward pass in football. In 1952, Vincent Massey was sworn in as the first

Feb. 25 In 1836, inventor Samuel Colt patented his revolver —

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Canadian-born Governor General. Born in Toronto in 1887, he was president of the Massey-Harris Company from 1921-25. He was appointed minister without portfolio in the Mackenzie King cabinet in 1925 but failed to win a seat in Parliament. Massey was Canada’s first ambassador to the U.S., from 1926-30, and Canadian high commissioner in London from 1935-46. The brother of actor Raymond Massey, he left Rideau Hall in 1959 and died in 1967. In 1971, the male voters of Liechtenstein defeated a referendum on giving women the vote.

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Feb. 29 In 1288, women in Scotland were given the legal right

to propose to men. In 1940, the epic “Gone with the Wind” won eight

Oscars at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, including Best Picture. In 1968, the discovery of the first pulsar, a star which

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emits regular radio waves, was announced by Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell at Cambridge, England. In 2004, Tiger Woods roared past Davis Love III with

key putts to win the Match Play Championship for the second straight year. Woods won for the 40th time on the PGA Tour in just his 149th start, the quickest anyone has reached that milestone. It took Jack Nicklaus 221 events.

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and the U.S. compared to other advanced economies, one of the two North American G7 members will lead the pack in growth almost every year. In fact, in 14 out of the past 15 years, Canada or the U.S. has led the G7 in nominal GDP growth. And almost every year, Canada is at or near the top of the G7 ranking. Of course, it’s generally good news that Canada’s

population is growing fast compared to other G7 countries, and that nominal GDP has kept up. And perhaps more overall growth will give Canada relatively more weight to throw around in future trade and climate- change negotiations. However, the notion that leading (or almost leading)

the G7 is evidence of strong economic performance or rapid growth in living standards is not simply off base, it’s dangerous. Why? Because comparing nominal Canadian economic

growth to the slow-growth G7 club — and then bragging about our apparent success — may blind us to the fact that Canada has been plagued for years by slow inflation- adjusted per-person economic growth. In fact, real per- person GDP didn’t budge much in Canada during the past decade, averaging 0.6 per cent per year. And when real per-person income has almost

completely stagnated, that should raise serious concerns about what we can do to attract more investment, increase productivity and create a policy environment more conducive to growth. This won’t happen, however, if we continue to pat

ourselves on the back for appearing annually near the top of the slow-growth club known as the G7. So the topline growth rate is not just a misleading

talking point, it’s a dangerous one that ought to be retired once and for all. That would allow for a more constructive conversation

about how to break out of the economic stagnation that has gripped our country for too long. Ben Eisen and Finn Poschmann are analysts at the Fraser Institute. Distributed by Troy Media.

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