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My colleagues Steve Ferris and Marcel Voia have done some interesting work on this - they find that the coefficient on "liberal prime minister" is positive and significant in a regression explaining Canadian economic growth over time. Part of the reason seems to be more expansionary monetary policy.

Instead of simply asking "How was the Canadian economy at this time?" wouldn't it be better to ask "How was it relative to other countries?". Preferably compared to similar countries.

How does this outcome change when we also control for some economic output factor like change in GDP? Frances, what other factors does Ferris' paper look into? I havent had time to read it yet but plan on doing it at some point after my classes are over.

So seeing as how Mackenzie King is on both sides of the scale, we can safely assume it doesn't matter who is in charge.

I think Mackenzie-King nails it as being irrelevant.

He wasn't that much of a social spender before 1945 either. Bennett had proposed a "New Deal" of his own in the dying days of his government which gave us the Bank of Canada and the CBC. Much of it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and the Privy Council. Mackenzie-King just sort of sailed along until 1939 when the storm clouds gathered.

It wasn't until 1944 after the Beveridge Report in the UK and the NDP winning in Saskatchewan that the Liberals took a serious left-turn and became the left-wing part we know from the post-war years.

I think the causality runs the other way, but that there may be something there (the US has a similar story, although it goes the other way in Britain). Here is my back of the napkin story:

I think commodity booms may tell part of the story. There are two Canada's - an industrial core and a resource extracting periphery. Our political parties reflect these cleavages - the Conservatives are the party of the periphery (although historically they were the party of the core - I'd peg the switch as occurring postwar), while the Liberals are the party of the core.

Because the population of the core is bigger, in general the core party dominates Canadian politics. However, every now and then there are sustained commodity booms. While commodity booms drive up the growth rate, they also cause a relative shift of power and influence to the periphery, enabling the periphery party to take power. Often, because the shift in power lags the commodity boom, they tend to become dominant around the peak of the boom (though sometimes the boom lasted longer).

It works for most of the interregnums of rule by the core party:
-Laurier (gold rush)
-King (WWI commodity shocks)
-Diefenbaker (post-Suez oil spike)
-Clark/Mulroney (oil spike, other commodities rising in prices)
-Harper (2000s oil spike, rising food prices)

Interesting, but I suspect it would be more telling to rank the PMs by the performance of the economy in the twelve months leading up to election day, and whether or not the outcome was change of government or preservation. That way you capture public mood about the economy, and put less emphasis on who's in charge.

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