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In his first speech on the economy since the January federal budget, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a request of the Canadian people:

Now, he said, is the time to shed our collective modesty.

Canada, he said, is so much better off than other nations.

Canada has low debt burden, Harper said, without acknowledging his government blew through record level surpluses within the blink of an eye and is now plunging the nation into a sea of fiscal red ink.

Nor did he mention that only one province -- Saskatchewan, a hotbed of oil, potash and uranium production -- may find itself in fiscal surplus in the next year.

He delivered his speech in Ontario, which is Canada’s canary in the mineshaft during this global recession. The province is bleeding jobs and Ontario will sink from surplus to an $18 billion deficit in the space of only two years.

But Harper did not focus on this.

He also failed to mention the record high household debt levels hanging over Canadians like an ominous dark cloud with no relief in sight.

Canadians have a skilled workforce, Harper said, without noting the 234,000 jobs lost in this country in a brief three months’ time. Nor did he talk about the many skilled but unemployed workers who do not qualify for Employment Insurance due to restrictive rules that Harper refuses to change.

And things are worse than they seem, according to Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who says compared to a year ago, Canada’s GDP is down 0.7 per cent and the U.S. by 0.8 per cent. So much for Canada being better.

But Harper, the ultimate free marketeer, doesn’t like to admit the free market system has failed the world economy and is starting to wreak havoc right here in Canada.

He’d prefer that we lose our modesty.

“I say to you, as businesspeople, as community builders, as citizens, if there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty, it is now,” Harper stated.

I looked up the word modest in the dictionary.

Modest [adverb]: Having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one’s merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.

Then I looked up the word immodest.

Immodest [adverb]: Vain, exaggerated, inflated.

The choice is ours.    

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