Figure 1 presents an example of the types of comparisons often presented in federal government documents – this one is from the recent 2013 budget and designed to demonstrate Canada’s superiority when it comes to employment and real output growth.
Canada is however the smallest of the G-7 economies in terms of total output and population. What if we compared it to a set of smaller northern European countries? Taken together, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and Finland have a population of about 42 million compared to Canada’s 34 million.
Figures 2-4 show Canada’s performance relative to the
smaller northern European economies over the period 2009 to 2012 in terms of
employment growth, average unemployment rate and real GDP growth using data
from the IMF World Economic Outlook Database. Figures 2 and 3 show that while total employment in Canada
grew the most in this comparison group between 2009 and 2012, the average
annual unemployment rate was still lower in Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands.
As for average annual real GDP growth over the 2009 to 2012 period, Figure 4 suggests that Canada was second to Sweden though superior to the other countries.
Canada’s performance, while good, is a bit more mixed when compared to these smaller economies which is an important reality check. Other OECD countries aside from Canada also seem to have done a reasonable job of weathering the recession compared to the G-7. By the way, in terms of net debt to GDP, Canada has the highest net debt to GDP ratio relative to these Baltic/North Sea economies.