harper-phone-thumb1-1.png This article is more than 7 years old

Internal report to Stephen Harper: Canadians pick “uneven” as best word for economy

Focus groups about the economy deliver bad news to Stephen Harper.

What’s the one word Canadians think best describes the economy under the Harper government?

According to a newly released internal report prepared for the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office, the magic word that came up during recent focus groups is “uneven”:

“Participants were asked to complete a short written exercise about their perception of the current state of the Canadian economy. They were provided with a list of adjectives, either positive, neutral or negative, and asked to select up to three words that best portrayed the state of the economy according to them…

 The word most often chosen to describe the Canadian economy was uneven.”

The report, prepared by Leger Marketing and submitted to the Privy Council Office in November 2014, sought to peg down “Canadians’ perceptions of current events.”

Harper repeatedly describes the Canadian economy as “the envy of the world” thanks to an abundance of “full-time, high-paying jobs.” But Canadians seem to think otherwise.

The new public-opinion research shows people have a “rather lukewarm outlook on the Canadian economy” with many expressing the feeling that “previous years and decades had brought better paying jobs and benefits but that these good times were mostly gone.”

More specifically, many said they have anxieties about “regional disparities” and “the sad state of their local economy”:

“Those who chose this qualifier (“uneven”) mostly talked about regional disparities across Canada, with some provinces (mainly Western provinces) seen as doing better than provinces in Central and Eastern Canada. Interestingly, this sense was particularly strong in Vancouver and Calgary, where participants felt that a stronger economy across Canada would benefit everyone, including themselves.”

And though most had mixed-feelings about the national economy, many rated their local economies even lower:

“There was a clear sense that the local job market was not very strong, with mostly low pay and low benefits jobs on offer. Participants felt that previous years and decades had brought better paying jobs and benefits but that these good times were mostly gone.”

In addition to feeling that the winners and losers in the Harper economy are spread unevenly by geography, the pollster noted that Ontarians, in particular, spoke of “social inequality” and the “growing divide between rich and poor.”

Respondents took note of how the job market has shifted away from stable full-time jobs (particularly in manufacturing) to unpredictable contract work and part-time service industry jobs:

“Participants from Ontario locations also talked at length about social inequality and how quality jobs were becoming a rarity in their community, creating a growing divide between rich and poor. In all Ontario locations there was a pervasive sense that a large number of full-time quality jobs, mostly in the manufacturing sector, had been replaced by short-term contract work with lower pay and reduced benefits in the service industry.”

That feeling of insecurity about the state of Canadian jobs is in line with what others have been saying about Canada’s job market for some time. 

In January, Broadbent Institue senior policy advisor Andrew Jackson noted that under Harper’s management of the economy, “incomes fell the most in hard-hit industrial Ontario. Here’s the five cities that have seen the steepest declines in median employment income (between 2006-2012):

  • Windsor, Ontario (-13.60%)
  • Oshawa, Ontario (-6.50%)
  • Abbotsford, British Columbia (-5.10%)
  • Victoria, British Columbia (-4.80%)
  • St. Catharines – Niagara, Ontario (-4.10%)
And a recent report by CIBC said Canadian job quality has plummeted to a 25-year low

PressProgress is powered by readers. Not by advertisers.

We’re not a corporate media outlet. We’re a small non-profit news organization that produces award-winning journalism with support from our readers.

If you see value in ad-free, non-profit journalism that holds powerful interests accountable, please consider making an investment in our work today.


Invest in Our Journalism
PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization focused on uncovering and unpacking the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.

Most Shared

thumb-2022-05-011 News

Doug Ford’s Budget Includes a Hidden $1.3 Billion ‘Decrease’ in Education Funding

Related Stories


Anti-Union Lobby Group Has Received Millions of Dollars From Doug Ford’s Government Since 2021

View the post

Doug Ford’s Government Gave Oil Company Run by Members of Secretive Religious Sect Millions of Dollars for Face Masks

View the post

Ontario PC Candidate Headed Committee That Published Magazine Encouraging Kids to Reject the ‘Homosexual Lifestyle’

View the post


Human rights & inclusion

Amira Elghawaby

Here’s The Problem With Hoping Corporations Will Be Socially and Environmentally Responsible On Their Own

View the post
Politics & strategy

Jeremy Appel

The battle of the PACs in Calgary’s municipal election

View the post
Politics & strategy

Jeremy Appel

27 Different Candidates are Vying to be Calgary’s Mayor. Here Are the Biggest Issues at Stake.

View the post
Why do newspapers always have a business section but not a labour section? We’ve launched a free newsletter covering labour issues in Canada.
Get All Your Canadian Labour News in One Place
Why do newspapers always have a business section but not a labour section? Good news! We’ve launched a newsletter covering labour issues in Canada.