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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leader gaffe goes almost unnoticed

I don't know why it's so hard to find Layton's direct quote in his interview with Thomson Rueters, wherein he expressed an opinion about interest rates, leading to criticism from other parties and a mea culpa from Layton on Friday.

It's good that he took the step back. He's right, that interest rates are going to strangle a generation of debt-addicted Canadians, but that's at least partially the fault of the historically-low interest rate we've had in Canada since the recession started. Too many Canadians have purchased houses and increased other personal debt based on the affordability of the carrying cost, without considering what happens when rates reset to normal. But holding the rate low would extend the problem, and start to produce unsustainable inflation. It's the debt itself, not the interest rate, that's the real problem.

On the larger scale, governments can only take hold of so many levers of the economy at one time without breaking the entire machine.

I can be pretty forgiving of Layton for a while yet, because he did back away from involving himself in Bank of Canada decisions so quickly. He's never governed, and no one in the NDP has any institutional memory of governing federally, so there's no one to steer him away from this sort of mistake. If he ends up Prime Minister, he's going to have to put some extra trust in the civil service, particularly in the Department of Finance, until his cabinet gets some experience under their belt. I think he's smart enough to know this.

Nonetheless, it exposes a real weakness about the NDP, and the other parties have used Ralph Goodale and Jim Flaherty to stress the point. It's a gaffe, no matter how ignored the story is. Prom 3, Sig 1 = 3 for the NDP. Sig should be higher, but the media's eyes tend to glaze when there's math. It's kind of pathetic.

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