Taking It To The Street


By Susanna Kelley

Susanna KelleyOntario lost 75,400 full-time jobs in October, according to the latest Statistics Canada figures.

That's a massive number of new unemployed in this province.

Our province's jobless rate now stands at 8.1 per cent, once again above the national rate of 7.3 per cent.

In Barrie, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 11.7 per cent.  Windsor has hit 10.5, Peterborough 10.1, London 9.2 per cent.

It's true that 36,600 part-time jobs were created in Ontario last month, making the overall job loss number 37,800.

But part time jobs don't make up for full time jobs. 

As a senior New Democrat pointed out to me the other day, "I'd say a person who lost a full time job at a Ford Plant and picked up 15 hours a week at Tim's would see an important distinction."

Many of the job losses were in construction and in the already hard-hit manufacturing sector.

That may well reflect the culmination of many of the government-funded infrastructure projects begun during the 2008/2009 economic meltdown.

Meanwhile, the economies of Europe - Greece and Italy to name the most fragile - teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.   

Leaders of the EU, the world's largest banks and the International Monetary Fund are scrambling to avert a global depression.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the other EU leaders meet constantly, desperately working to stave off economic disaster.

It's the main pre-occupation of the G20 national leaders.

Contrast this with the leisurely pace the newly re-elected minority Liberal government seems to be taking to unemployment at this point.

There seems to be no sense of urgency at all from the McGuinty Liberals.

The Ontario election was a month ago.  It will be another two weeks until the Legislature sits on November 21st.   

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has announced he will bring down an economic statement within several weeks.

But the Legislature adjourned the first week of June. 

That means it will have been shut down for almost six full months.

Yes, there's been an election in between.  But elections are 30 days long, not six months.

In addition, when the Legislature comes back, it will sit for about three weeks, and then it's off again for the winter break ... which usually means until March.

Now the Premier can call the house back early - say, in January - should he so desire, and there are many precedents for doing so. 

However, so far, there have been no indications the government will do so.

Does it not seem a little strange that, this being (as the Tories constantly point out) over 50 months in a row that Ontario has had an unemployment rate higher than the national average, the government is taking such a lackadaisical approach to new programs to create jobs?

And sitting as a minority, wouldn't you think the Liberals would be keen to be seen as being all over Ontario's dragging economy?

A senior Liberal source says the politicians are exhausted from a campaign that, because of fixed election dates, really begins a year before the writ drops.

As well, the source says the cabinet has only been appointed for two weeks and ministers must learn their portfolios.

The Liberals may not need the legislature to go ahead with programs to stimulate the economy, added the senior Liberal.

And besides, what can the Premier of Ontario really do about an economic situation manufactured in the U.S. and Europe, the source asked rhetorically.

But during the campaign, Mr. McGuinty ran on his government's record, which, he often reminded people, includes retrieving all the jobs Ontario lost during the 2008-2009 recession, and then some.

He can't have it both ways.  The Liberals can't both take credit for job creation in good times and then deny they can do anything about job losses in bad times.

The public, by consistently naming the economy it's first priority for months in public opinion polls, signaled its displeasure with the lack of serious debate about it in the election by refusing to give any one party a majority, neither of seats nor popular votes.

The truth is, governments that want to move quickly, can. 

Whether you agreed with them or not, the Mike Harris Tories moved within several months to cut billions in spending and decrease welfare rates by 22 per cent costs.

Elected in June of 1995, by the fall they brought in an Economic Statement that was actually the size and scope of a full budget, with billions more in spending cuts to many ministries. 

No one is advocating such a policy now. The Harris method is mentioned here simply as an example of how quickly governments can move on major policy and spending decisions if they want to.

But there is a strange lack of urgency surrounding this Liberal minority government.

The government does seem intent on sending signals it wants to get its costs under control, saying public sector wages should be held to zero per cent increases and refusing to fund anything more than that in the broader public sector. (However soon the government will be at the negotiating table itself with doctors and two public sector unions. Holding the line will be difficult; legislating it may be impossible given recent court decisions.)

Certainly, living within the province's means is important.

But what signal is it sending the unemployed in this province, over 75,000 of who lost their jobs in the last month, by sitting only three weeks this fall in such stressful economic times?

By failing to come up with a plan to create jobs quickly, and leaving the Legislature empty for so long, that signal is far from pretty.

You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley

Posted date : November 08, 2011
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