To the editor:
I’m one of the local letter writers who MP Ron Cannan refers to in his most recent column (Feds Stick To Economic Plan Yielding Positive Results,” July 26 Capital News).
The letter writers, he says, “continue to denounce the government’s efforts to support job creation, taking aim at the government’s economic action plan and improvements to the EI and Temporary Foreign Worker programs, even going so far as to suggest that these measures are undermining good, well-paying jobs in this country.”
The “evidence” is to the contrary, he says. The writers may be trying to score “political points.”
Cannan then begins to expound data. Our country has been able to recover more than 765,000 net new jobs since July 2009, he says. (I would add that these are many more than the 427,900 jobs lost since the recession of 2008-09.) In particular, “Canada has much to be proud of when it comes to our efforts for youth employment; in fact, we rank second only to Germany in our successes.”
According to economists at the CIBC, 155,000 jobs were created in the first six months of this year alone, most of them full-time. Cannan quotes the CIBC: “The even better news is that these jobs were of high quality.”
And as of April 2012, the average weekly wage is up at $896.63.
Working backwards, what Cannan has not said is that the average weekly wage is up only $26.67 from April 2011—an increase of 3 per cent, which just kept up with inflation.
What he has not said is that the CIBC simultaneously reported that the “trajectory” of high quality jobs will falter. Expected job losses in exports, construction and the public sector add up to a “sure-fire recipe” for reduced employment quality.
And what he has not said is that the jobs market has been stalled since April 2012; the unemployment rate fell by 0.1 per cent in June only because 16,800 dropped out of the labour force; and the employment rate for students was the lowest June rate since that data started to be made available in 1977.
Worse, what Cannan hasn’t reckoned with is the fact that Canada’s working-age population has been growing at 1.3 per cent per year—faster than any other G7 country and nearly twice the OECD average, according to economist Jim Stanford. What this means is that Canada needs to generate hundreds of thousands of new jobs each year, and billions of dollars in new GDP, just to stand still as far as economic and labour market conditions go.
“After adjusting for population growth,” says Stanford, “neither GDP nor employment growth since the recession has yet to recoup the ground lost during the 2008–09 downturn. In the labour market, in particular, the pace of employment-creation has lagged far behind the pace of population growth; so that after adjusting for population growth, less than one-fifth of the damage done by the recession has been repaired” (“Canada’s Incomplete, Mediocre Recovery,” January 2012).
Without adjusting for population growth, we can now understand Canada’s employment figures in a new light. Despite all the job creation in the last couple of years, the employment rate of 62.4 per cent in June 2012 is still lower than the rate of 63.8 per cent in May 2008, before the recession began.
It seems a cheap shot to suggest that writers like me are trying to score political points. Instead, I identify with the majority of Canadians who were polled by the International Trade Union Confederation in June of this year. Fifty-two per cent said the government should make job creation a priority, while only 11 per cent said the government should immediately pay off its debt.
Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, puts it another way. “This poll shows that people feel a deep uncertainty and fear about the international economic situation. The message for G20 leaders is that people want their governments to invest in job creation rather than pushing austerity programs that cut back on government spending and destroy jobs.”
The Capital News has not published what Mr. Cannan has read elsewhere: there are almost six unemployed workers for every job vacancy reported to Statistics Canada by employers, rising to about 10 unemployed workers per vacant job in some provinces.
Last year, the unemployment rate for off-reserve aboriginal Canadians was 12.9 per cent, a full 5.6 per cent higher than for non-aboriginal Canadians. The rate would have been much worse if people living on-reserve had also been counted.
In Vernon, unemployment was 15.4 per cent in March before seasonal hiring kicked in.
In Kelowna, the food bank had to ask Alberta to truck in 25,000 pounds of food because applications for assistance are up 12 per cent from last year.
Canadians need jobs, not political spin, and we need those jobs now. (Corporate taxes have been cut 23 per cent since 1980, representing $46 billion per year less that lands in public coffers. If the cuts authorized by this government alone were uncut, the $12 billion per year coming in would go a long way toward job creation. The corporate tax rate would still be 18 per cent less than it is in the U.S., and two per cent lower than the world average of 23 per cent.)
Canadian workers also need an extension of EI benefit periods until required jobs materialize. (There was $57 billion in the EI fund until the government raided it of all but $2 billion in 2010. That’s a problem Canadians should insist that this government address.)
And we need the legislation revoked that allows employers to pay Temporary Foreign Workers up to 15 per cent less than Canadian workers in the same jobs, thereby driving down the wages for all workers.
This is a country of taxpayers who happen to employ politicians like MP Ron Cannan, not a corporate welfare state whose objective it is to increase profit margins for employers at the expense of Canadian workers and their families.