For the past three months, the only thing consistent about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's position on the economy has been its inconsistency.
During the fall election campaign, Harper pooh-poohed talk of an economic downturn and declared: "My own belief is if we were going to have some kind of crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now."
Last month, in a speech to business moguls in Peru for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, Harper changed his tune: "The world is entering an economic period unlike, and potentially as dangerous as, anything we have faced since 1929." To address the crisis, he said, "it may well be necessary to take unprecedented fiscal stimulus."
A few days later, the Harper government produced an economic statement that contained no new stimulus, forecast balanced budgets into the next fiscal year, and suggested the economic crisis could be overcome "with prudence and restraint, combined with hard work."
Then this week in a TV interview, Harper warned: "The truth is I've never seen such uncertainty in terms of looking forward to the future. I'm very worried about the Canadian economy... Obviously we're going to have to run a deficit. We're talking about spending billions of dollars that was not planned."
What is the explanation for this roller-coaster ride?
Harper and his ministers would have us believe that circumstances have changed over the three months, morphing from a financial crisis to one affecting the real economy. But most of that was predictable and was, indeed, predicted. No one really believed the crisis could be contained to a few banks and insurance companies.