A sense of déjà vu, every once in a while, is thrilling, even titillating.
It’s as if you’ve been afforded another rare glimpse behind a barely familiar curtain where you once saw steam-punk-demi-gods, masquerading as policy makers, market traders, Bay Street bankers, and other assorted auguries decide how much money you’ll make and how long you’ll live to spend it.
But when the same, old horse entrails insist on coming round the corner once again. . .well, it all just gets so very, depressingly boring.
Hello 2016. Do you remember 2008?
Here, according the online People History, is what was preoccupying us eight years ago:
“Property prices continue to fall on both sides of the Atlantic in Europe and America causing hardship to many homeowners, and problems for financial institutions . . . Bank of America is to take over the country’s biggest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, which (is) rumored to be close to bankruptcy. . . Citigroup, the (United States’) largest bank, joins a number of other financial institutions and reported a fourth-quarter loss of $9.83 billion. . . President (George W.) Bush and (Congressional) House leaders agree to a $150 billion stimulus package, including rebates for most tax filers of up to $600 for individuals. . . President Bush signs the $700 billion bailout package bill . . .The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act is signed into law.”
Here, according to many others, and me, is what is preoccupying us now in the breaking days of the 16th year of the 21st century:
Property prices continue to fall across the Great White North, causing desperate, overextended homeowners to sell their stories (and, thereby, avert certain bankruptcy) to HGTV reality-show producers.
Commodity prices continue to plummet, transforming Canada into a great, vacant wasteland of missed opportunity and once-promising technological innovation (though, still, a marvellous overland runway for Maritimers suddenly heading back home as every Alberta oil and gas derrick shudders to shutter).
Of course, the banking sector in this most frigid reach of the North American continent remains strong, proud and free, even as just about every other segment of the economy is wondering where and how to boil its next egg.
Finally, Canada’s self-appointed national rag reports that Ottawa intends to “fast-track stimulus spending” over the next few months because, as one confidential government source disclosed for the Globe and Mail’s front-page story, “The (economic and fiscal) situation has deteriorated since our (election) platform last July.”
Really? No kidding, Sherlock.
This is déjà vu all over again.
It’s an undercurrent that New Brunswickers know only too well. Boom, bust, boom, bust, boom and bust again. It might as well be the market tempo that prompts our nervously tapping feet.
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz calls it an “undercurrent that will last for several years. It typically takes three or five years to adjust to a significant shift in your terms of trade, which is what we’re going through.”
In important respects, though, we are “going through” something much different than we have in the past.
In the past, a rise in commodity prices and foreign exchange rates compensated for a drop in manufactures and related exporting. Now, in this country and at this time, we face a general malaise in all engines of the economy.
Fortunately, we Maritimers know how to jump that particular shark as long as we remember how to use the lessons of history to avoid making mistakes in the future: Stay lean, nimble, innovative and fundamentally entrepreneurial.
Let’s keep our sense of déjà vu hopefully fresh.