Déjà vu: Ontario’s recession and the 1930s

October 13, 2009

TORONTO – One year after the Crash of October 2008, Ontario’s recession is looking eerily like the Great Depression and governments need to do something about that, says a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Close Encounters of the Thirties Kind, by social policy expert John Stapleton, is a blow-by-blow account of the similarities between Ontario circa 1930s and today.

“Life was definitely harder back in the Great Depression but the similarities between the types of struggles then and now are eerily familiar,” says Stapleton. “Instead of learning from history, our governments are making many of the same mistakes.”

The report finds 11 similarities between the Great Depression and the Crash of 2008:

  1. Both downturns were caused by unplanned economic crashes;
  2. Hugh stock market upticks followed both crashes, fuelling debate about the length and shape of the downturn;
  3. One year after the crash, governments suffered from ‘optimism bias’;
  4. The welfare to wage ratio was, and is, at historic lows;
  5. Prior to each crash, the Ontario government ordered a study of social needs – the 1930s reports helped shape future social service programs;
  6. Both Ontario governments championed the value of community mobilization;
  7. The impulse to blame the victims of recession was equally strong;
  8. Immediately following the crash, the federal King government was as silent on the need for help then and as the federal Harper government is now;
  9. Workfare existed then and now, but rarely at any other time in Ontario history;
  10. The provinces were scared, running deficits and struggling to pay the bills;
  11. Then, as now, cash-strapped municipalities bore the brunt of demand from desperate citizens without adequate help from senior governments.

The report, available at www.policyalternatives.ca, calls on senior governments to take the lessons of the 1930s and act swiftly to minimize Ontario’s current recession.


For more information please call: Trish Hennessy (416) 551-2059.