Saturday, October 3, 2009

How Canada Prepared for the Crunch

Looking back just a little, the current recession took hold in 2007 when the inflated U.S. real estate bubble exploded. The speed with which the downfall snowballed surprised many but did provide enough time for legislators to take early action. The Canadian government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was one of the first to prepare for the coming financial challenges.

The first step was introducing legislation in 2007 for permanent tax reductions for Canadian homes and businesses. As the recession hit the U.S. in early 2008, these new tax cuts took effect, helping sustain consumer spending and pumping billions of dollars into the Canadian economy. The lower GST is a blessing for individuals who have more of their hard earned dollars to spend. Canadian businesses now benefit from the lowest corporate tax rate among G7 industrialized countries, providing cash for continued corporate growth and creating new jobs.

During the country's strong economic years in 2005-2006, the government wisely reduced the national debt by $37 billion. By entering this recession period with a low debt burden, the government has had flexibility to run a short term deficit and provide funds for job creating investments and other economic stimulus programs.

Another preventive measure undertaken by the Harper government was regulating the mortgage market. The maximum term was reduced to 35 years and a minimum 5 percent down payment is required for government-backed mortgages.

Finally, responding to a cautious banking sector, the government has enacted programs to provide access to financing for consumers, households, and businesses. The government has not replaced private lending but, rather, is working in a cooperative effort with financial institutions to encourage lending and provide a network of guarantees.
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