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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ONW "Jobs Week" 

                                     A Look At The Hottest Issue of the Next Election                                                                                                



 By Susanna Kelley

 This is "Jobs Week" at OntarioNewsWatch.

 With jobs expected to be the biggest issue in the next provincial election, which may come this  spring, we feel it's time to take an in-depth, serious look at both the policies that create good,  solid jobs, and the politics that may be keeping Ontario from doing just that.

 Each day, we will be presenting another segment looking at jobs - what it means for the Ontario economy not to have half a million people out of work, and a look at the many and diverse ideas out there to create the jobs they need.

Behind the scenes right now, as with the period before every Ontario election, party activists are revving up the troops, giving the usual pep talks about why they should donate countless volunteer days and sleepless nights of herculean effort, hitting the pavement and the campaign trail to get their candidates elected.   

That talk, a masterpiece of persuasive guilt-tripping, goes like this:

"This is the most important election in a long time in Ontario," they're told. "There's just so many crucial issues at stake, and our party must win or the province could face dire consequences."

All elections are important of course.

But in fact, this time the mantra is no exaggeration.

When Ontarians go to the polls next time, the province will be facing an uncertain future.

The social and economic contracts that brought prosperity to our parents' and grandparents' generations in post-World War II Canada have been broken.

The middle class has not moved ahead in over 35 years; in some western nations, it has actually fallen behind.

To be blunt, the 1980s trickle-down economic model of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, with its tax cuts to the wealthy, has failed to deliver what it promised: to provide prosperity for all by cutting taxes for the wealthy.

The theory was that as the wealthy spent their riches, their demand would stimulate the economy and create jobs for many: their wealth would "trickle down."

In fact what happened was the wealthy in North America have become so rich they are unable to spend the amounts that have been piling up for those 35 years, so massive have they become, so they and their economic concerns are sitting on the money or investing it offshore.

Hence demand has slowed.

A great analysis of all this is provided in Robert Reich's insightful book Aftershock. Mr. Reich was a top advisor to three U.S. Presidents from two different parties - Republican Gerald Ford, and Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He shows how in the U.S., incomes equaled out for decades after The Great Depression, which enabled the middle class to fuel demand to create jobs and higher incomes for all. Then, after Reaganomics took hold through the 1990s and 2000s, the top 1 per cent took a massive percentage of all the newly created wealth. Mr. Reich has gathered the statistical evidence to show that by 2007 income inequality in developed nations reached the heights of the Gilded Age of the 20's, which caused the Great Depression to begin with. 

And that's where we're at today.

Ontario has had additional problems. Free trade drove production to low wage countries like Thailand, the Philippines, China and Bangladesh. As well, analysts blame a high Canadian dollar, caused by expensive Alberta oil, for making Ontario exports too costly. And finally, technological advances have meant tasks once done by a number of people are now aided by computers and robots.

Under all this weight, Ontario's manufacturing base - its job-creation machine - collapsed, losing 300,000 jobs.  That's a lot of people out of work, and many families in crisis.

It hasn't gotten any better.  The province has had an unemployment rate higher than the national average since 2007. And youth unemployment is through the roof: only 50 per cent of our young people (ages 15-24) are employed.

Whether one agrees about what got us into this state to begin with, just about everyone agrees on one thing.

Ontario needs more jobs.

And that is promising to make it the number one issue in the next election.

That's a good thing. In the 2011 provincial election, all three Ontario parties tried to pretend the 2008-09 global near collapse hadn't happened.  Voters punished them all with a minority government.

This time, all three leaders are finally acknowledging it is the most important issue of the next campaign.

The central question, then: how best to create the well-paying, secure and meaningful jobs Ontarians want and need?

What can government do?  Should it be involved at all?  And if there is government involvement, what should that look like?

What effect does it have that Ontario has not just one economy, but more like five, reflecting the different regions of the province? And that they are very different from one another?

PC leader Tim Hudak has just released his plan that he says will create a million jobs over 8 years.

Three points about that: firstly it presupposes he will win two elections; secondly, that he will win back-to-back majority governments over the next eight years.

Thirdly, a million jobs over eight years works out to 125,000 jobs per year, which Mr. Hudak admits is simply the traditional annual average for Ontario.

So his goal is neither as spectacular as it sounds nor very difficult to achieve.

But at least he is out front with some ideas and is demonstrating a solid focus on jobs as a campaign issue next election.

This week, ONW will feature a number of segments on how to provide people, especially the young, with meaningful employment, and the politics of doing so.

We will present the documentary "A Work in Progress: Creating Good Jobs and Prosperity In Ontario" in which ONW sought out some of the smartest and most experienced minds in the province to ask them the best ways to create jobs here.

Our weekly panel on Ontario politics, "The ONW Insiders" with Hershell Ezrin, Jeff Bangs and Paul Ferreire, is back and ready to weigh in on both the policies and the politics of putting people back to work in this province.

And we'll have even more.

Jobs and prosperity for Ontario.

A "Work In Progress" indeed.






















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 : January 20, 2014

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