Justin Trudeau and Erin O’Toole promise 1 million jobs. But both ignore a bigger challenge

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Both Conservatives and Liberals promise a million jobs after the pandemic, but the similarities end there.

Justin Trudeau made this commitment last September in the Speech from the Throne and subsequent financial updates.

Not to be outdone, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has incorporated a parallel engagement into her latest social media campaign.

“We will recover 1 million jobs in one year. We have lost that number in this pandemic and our mission is to get Canadians back to work and put the paycheques back in your pockets, ”he tweeted.

Chances are, either leader will be able to deliver on their vague promises without much effort, depending on what you mean by a million jobs. But it seems they would take different paths to get there – approaches that could have a lasting impact on the nature of the Canadian economy.

Statistics Canada showed on Friday that the roller coaster labor market rebounded again in June as parts of the country began to open up after the installation of the third wave of COVID-19.

On the bright side: Employment increased by 231,000 positions – almost offsetting losses from the previous two months of pandemic lockdown. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in June, from 8.2 percent a month earlier. More people have joined the labor market.

Young people, who more than most have suffered the brunt of the pandemic recession, have made huge gains. Student employment has actually recovered. The same goes for new immigrants and native workers. Cities are doing well, say economists from National Bank Financial: Montreal and Vancouver have recovered, and Toronto is almost there.

Economists say the numbers show the Canadian labor market is fairly resilient, able to rebound easily when restrictions ease. They expect more gains this month as Ontario opens up even more.

But the job gains were mainly due to new part-time positions. Full-time employment was little changed after two months of heavy losses.

The total number of jobs is 340,000 less than it was before the pandemic began – and that is the number the Liberals and Conservatives focus on when they talk about a million. jobs. We are currently short of 340,000 jobs.

But in fact, because our population has grown, we are actually missing 550,000 jobs for a full recovery, according to Statistics Canada.

In addition, nearly a million people still suffer from the consequences of the pandemic on employment. StatCan includes the total number of people who are unemployed, those who work fewer hours than they expected, those who are on temporary layoff and those who are completely inactive but still want to find work. And according to this measure – called the labor underutilization rate – there are currently 907,000 more people than before the pandemic.

That’s down considerably from the nearly 5 million sidelined at the height of closures in April 2020. But it’s clear we still have a long way to go.

The Conservative solution was spelled out by jobs critic Pierre Poilievre on Friday. He blamed the lack of jobs on Liberal overspending, bureaucracy and high taxes. And he promised that a Conservative government would “spark the era of free enterprise” that cut taxes to reward labor and investment, quickly issue building permits, encourage free trade between provinces, eliminate bureaucracy and “stop printing money” to stop inflation. pressure.

It’s unclear how a Conservative government would intervene with the Bank of Canada mandate, but Poilievre has repeatedly accused the central bank of lacking integrity and of deliberately fueling inflation at the behest of the Liberals.

The Liberals, on the other hand, do not value free enterprise much, even if they do not oppose it. Instead, they talk a lot about supporting workplaces and workers during the pandemic by extending wage subsidies and relaxing EI provisions until the economy improves. They talk about a hiring subsidy that has just been introduced in the budget. And they cite longer-term measures to attract women to the workforce by heavily subsidizing daycare centers, and to boost green jobs by supporting the transition to low-carbon production.

It’s a fairly traditional approach from both sides. The Conservatives would see fewer taxes and less government interference in the operation of businesses. The Liberals use government subsidies, regulation and support to help us.

What neither of them seems to address in depth are the permanent changes in the economy and in the workforce that the pandemic is bringing about – changes in global business models, in methods of production, in the commute, in the way we work every day.

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We don’t yet know if city centers will come back to life, but working from home is likely to be much more prevalent after the pandemic than before. And we’re only just beginning to tackle the employment implications of automation. Businesses, their clients, and their clients have moved into a fully digital world in droves, and we’re only beginning to explore what that means for long-term jobs.

Globalization is changing, with companies shortening their supply chains and countries attempting to produce on land. For an open economy like Canada, there will be turnover.

We can welcome the signs of resilience, but we need policies to catch up.


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