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The great rethink: Why Canada’s three-decade-old approach to economic management needs an overhaul

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After the federal government announced yet more spending on Aug. 21, Fitch returned this week with a new warning, saying failure to get federal and provincial debts under control over the medium term could lead to another downgrade.

“We’re always reacting,” Michael Penner, a former textile executive who is now lead operating director at Partners Group AG, a Swiss private-equity firm that oversees assets worth about US$96 billion, said in an interview last month.

Rather than a “Yosemite Sam, shooting-up-in-the-air” approach to spending, Penner said the country needs a comprehensive rethink about what it’s trying to achieve by taking on debt that is set to eclipse 100 per cent of gross domestic product.

“This (federal) government, and all of our governments, have not invested enough in being proactive as opposed to reactive,” he said. “They haven’t looked at the issues in the sense of Canadian autonomy.”

Enter O’Toole, who separated himself from his competitors in the leadership race by publishing a detailed policy platform, suggesting he might understand that winning the next election will require more than exploiting Conservatives’ general dislike of the prime minister.

Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O'Toole.
Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole. Photo by Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images

Stripped of partisan hyperbole, O’Toole’s manifesto begins this way: “The … economic decisions made by the Trudeau government in the last five years had led to a steady decline in Canadian competitiveness, billions in lost investment and the shift of thousands of jobs out of Canada long before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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