Tough Times Timeline

Written by Jim McElgunn

Bust busters

Tough times aren’t bad times in every sector. A fortunate few are immune to slumps — or even do better at such times. Here are key sectors that remained in rosy good health during three past downturns:

The 1929-39 Depression

Economic calamity left people craving distraction from the bleakness, and Hollywood movies such as 1933’s King Kong flourished by offering affordable escape. Motels proliferated as cash-strapped travellers sought a low-cost alternative to hotels. And governments built public works such as power grids and public buildings on a colossal scale to create jobs for the unemployed.

The 1981-82 recession

Two major sectors expanded briskly during the worst bust since the Dirty Thirties: government and health care. As usual in tough times, the public purse opened wide to buoy up the economy and meet exploding demand for social services. And the health-care system sailed through the slump, thanks to its status as the No. 1 spending priority for both Ottawa and the provinces.

The 2000-01 recession

Casinos proved a profitable bet as consumers stressed by the tech crash and 9/11 found respite in recreation. This trend also benefited brewing and film production. But the biggest winner was pipeline transportation, which had also boomed during the 1990-91 recession. Neither downturn managed to put a dent in Canada’s relentless rise to energy-superpower status.

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