Taking It To The Street

Ontario's Jobless Rate Now Tops U.S.' - But Will Lib Leadership Candidates Address It?

By Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley

In a week that will see Americans vote for a new President and a flurry of candidates launch their campaigns for Ontario Liberal leader, some startling information has just come out that should throw cold water on Ontarians thinking our economy is recovering.

Two shocking statistics in particular are putting a whole new slant on things.

The jobless rate for October in this province rose to 8.3 per cent, a full percentage point higher than a year ago. 

The same day Statistics Canada announced that, new numbers in the U.S. showed its rate lower at 7.9 per cent.

That means Ontario's unemployment rate is now higher than that of the economically devastated, weakened, recession-ravaged U.S.

Higher than the great country brought to its knees by the recession, where so many have lost their homes and where the middle class cries out that it is being decimated.

So much for the claims that Canada has been shielded from the ravages of the global recession because of our superior economic and fiscal policies, says University of Ottawa law professor Errol Mendes.

With this kind of stark comparison so blatant, one would expect that the Liberal leadership candidates announcing this week, and those thinking of running - Glen Murray, Kathleen Wynne, Sandra Pupatello, Gerard Kennedy, and John Wilkinson - would have unemployment top of mind.

It's certainly been a main issue of the American election, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney extolling (albeit belatedly) a tax cut for the middle class while promising to continue to make top income earners pay 60% of the total revenues of the government.

(Romney seems to be banking on people not having the intelligence to figure out that 60% of a reduced revenue pie due to a middle class tax cut actually results in a whopping tax cut for the wealthiest in America.) 

Seeing so many battered by unemployment in this province, be it in St. Thomas where the shutdown of the big Ford plant has devastated the town, in communities around the more than 60 paper mills closed in Northern Ontario, or those who work for the federal government as it lays off thousands of public servants - surely then, for many people, whether they're going to have a job next week is top of mind.

The Liberals didn't give the issue a lot of traction in the last election until halfway through the campaign. Their change of focus likely halted the complete defeat of the McGuinty government.

So you would think the issue would be front and centre as candidates jump into the race.

We will have to see this week, but it did not seem to be very high on Glen Murray's radar as the former Ontario cabinet minister made his candidacy official Sunday morning at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Mr. Murray, who is usually seen as being on the left of the party, was sounding like a true blue Conservative.

He called for a tax cut for the middle class   and small businesses.

And doing a good imitation of Mr. Romney or former Ontario PC Premier Mike Harris, Mr. Murray said his government would have to do more with less:



For "fewer resources" read "fewer employees."

Because we all know how governments these days cut resources.  The same way as business - by laying people off or freezing their salaries (as McGuinty has done to teachers and hopes still to do with all public servants.)

There was nary a word about increasing revenues through a tax hike for even the wealthiest in Ontario in the platform that Mr. Murray said he would put forward as Premier.

That sounds like a continuation of the austerity plan McGuinty has been implementing as a way to balance the budget by 2017, something top Liberals say is essential for them to win another election. Mr. Murray even said his government might be able to balance the budget faster.

That strategy has always puzzled me, as balanced budgets are not usually a ballot box question for Liberals  - that's a Tory issue.   

Besides, looking at the Liberal and NDP votes in the last election, two thirds of those who voted, voted against that sort of austerity policy, which was advocated by Tim Huda's Conservatives.

Austerity doesn't seem to have worked very well for those fiscally sick countries of the Eurozone. Many say it's only made matters worse. It has certainly made unemployment soar there.

Mr. Murray says his ideas  - admittedly only the bare bones of which were outlined Sunday - are what he would put forward as the Liberal platform should the minority government fall, as is very possible, with the spring budget:



To be fair, Mr. Murray has also promised what he calls a "no money down" college and university education. By that he means private lenders in partnership with the government will defer up to $11,000 a year in interest and loan payments.

This is not an expansion of the grant program, just the loan program.

Nor is it a promise to lower tuition.

It simply means a student won't have to pay back a loan to private sector lenders (read banks) and their government partners until 12 months after a student graduates. (Repayments of loan and interest rates will be dependent on his or her income.)

Mr. Murray also promises tax incentives "so employers can assume a student's debt."

Mr. Murray's promise of subways for the GTA and Hamilton, built with the help of money from the private sector, has a Rob Fordian feel to it.

But Mr. Murray bristled when I asked him if these weren't the policies of the right, saying it was the first time anyone had ever called him right wing. He indicated he is not the "establishment" candidate but rather will rely on the support of grassroots Liberals.

We will have to see what the other candidates come forward with this week. 

But if this is left-wing policy, it will be interesting to what candidates on the  "right" of the party will come up with.

You can find Susanna here: 

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : November 05, 2012

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