Friday , January 22 2021
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Can you be confident about an economy you can’t see?

Summary:
Canada's economy may be on life support, but it is still hanging on. Even on streets that seem empty and shuttered, there are a few businesses getting by, or even thriving. The bookstore on Beechwood Avenue looks closed, but every so often a customer pops by to pick up an order from the bookrack hidden in the vestibule. At Life of Pie, the neighbourhood bakery/restaurant, the tables are stacked up, and the lights dimmed - but in the back the kitchen is humming, as the staff works hard to fill a steady stream of orders. When I ordered take-out from the local  Indian restaurant, the owner sounded busy and cheerful for the first time in months. The local farmer's market has moved on-line - no more lingering over the potatoes and fighting hipsters for the last bag of arugula. All orders

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Canada's economy may be on life support, but it is still hanging on. Even on streets that seem empty and shuttered, there are a few businesses getting by, or even thriving.

The bookstore on Beechwood Avenue looks closed, but every so often a customer pops by to pick up an order from the bookrack hidden in the vestibule. At Life of Pie, the neighbourhood bakery/restaurant, the tables are stacked up, and the lights dimmed - but in the back the kitchen is humming, as the staff works hard to fill a steady stream of orders. When I ordered take-out from the local  Indian restaurant, the owner sounded busy and cheerful for the first time in months. The local farmer's market has moved on-line - no more lingering over the potatoes and fighting hipsters for the last bag of arugula. All orders now have to be in by Thursday noon, paid in advance by e-transfer, and picked up in a quick, physically distanced transaction. There is economic activity going on, but much of it is invisible, and hidden at home. As for the rest - if you don't look closely, you'll miss it.

I hope that policy makers can be creative and figure out ways of opening up more local businesses. But even if they do, what will that do for consumer confidence? Can you be confident in an economy that you can't see?

Frances Woolley
I am a Professor of Economics at Carleton University, where I have taught since 1990. My research centres on families and public policy. My most-cited work is on modelling family-decision making, measuring inequality within the household, feminist economics, and tax-benefit policy towards families. I hold a BA from Simon Fraser University, an MA from Queen’s, and completed my doctorate at the London School of Economics, under the supervision of Tony Atkinson.

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