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Temur Durrani

Multi-Platform Writer


A well-renowned business executive, who sat at the helm of Canada’s largest corporations for decades, says she's had enough of the unproductive banter about the economy on election campaign trails.

Carol Stephenson, an Order of Canada recipient and most recently dean of the Ivey Business School at Western University, was hoping for clarity surrounding financial policy and post-pandemic frameworks when the writ was dropped 36 days ago.

Instead, she said, the entire country got nothing meaningful about dire economic concerns from any party vying for a seat in the House of Commons. 

“I thought that we would pivot by now to talk about what is the road ahead for COVID-19 recovery,” Stephenson said in an interview on Election Day.

“In contrast, we got additional spending going from $52 billion to $214 billion, with no real substantive discussion on how we’re going to get back to fiscal sustainability.”

Stephenson, who’s now a corporate director on the board of General Motors and Maple Leaf Foods and has been a top-ranking executive at Bell Canada and BCE Inc., thinks popular topics were prioritized over genuine concerns. 

“These populist tactics of picking on billionaires, or whatever the flavour of the day is, are not going to make a huge difference to the economy going forward,” she said. 

“I just hope that when we finally get some certainty on who’s going to be elected today that the dialogue will change and we will start talking in a more serious fashion about what we’re going to do.”

What worries Stephenson most is how Canada is going to grow out of the pandemic. She wants to know how a government with a new mandate will boost gross domestic product and bring federal debt back to “reasonable" levels.

It’s why she’s far more eager to see budget updates from whichever party comes into power instead of platforms and speeches, “because that’s when you genuinely get down to business.” 

“I wish that we had a clearly defined industrial strategy for this country. If it exists, we didn’t discuss it very much,” Stephenson said. 

“But this can’t go on forever. At some point, we have got to get back on track.”

Canada's GDP had its worst quarter since the onset of COVID-19, contracting at an annualized rate of 1.1 per cent over the summer months, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada in August.