Public service employment programs – what have we got to fear?

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Canada’s labour force ballooned last month thanks to a surge in temporary
public-administration work likely
generated by the federal election. Economists have also recorded increases in employment after natural disasters or
during wars when massive government outlays pour into the economy.

Canada’s labour force ballooned last month thanks to a surge in temporary
public-administration work likely
generated by the federal election. Economists have also recorded increases in employment after natural disasters or
during wars when massive government outlays pour into the economy.
But governments don’t have to wait for catastrophes to spend. During the Great Depression when private business activity was subdued, governments successfully
put people to work through New Deal
programs. In the 1970s, the Liberal
government also experimented with direct job creation delivered through local
organizations and citizen groups. The Local Initiatives Program successfully hired in areas such as arts and culture, recreation, tourism, research and protecting the
environment.
Conservative ideologues would have us worry about government waste, but they overlook the high social cost of keeping people unemployed – increased rates of family breakdown, increased crime rates, increased alcohol and substance abuse, increased suicide rates, and lost opportunities for skill development and work
experience among the young. As economist
John Maynard Keynes recognized, “The Conservative belief that there is some law of nature which prevents men from being employed, that it is “rash” to employ men, and that it is financially ‘sound’ to maintain a tenth of the population in idleness for an indefinite period, is crazily improbable – the sort of thing which no man could believe who had not had his head fuddled with
nonsense for years and years…”.
“Boondoggling and leaf-raking” is the ultimate put down by the conservatives who laud the virtues of the private sector as they create hundreds of thousands of low-skill, low-paid, precarious and mind-numbing jobs, but they hate, with an irrational
passion, the idea that the public sector could employ workers that the private sector doesn’t want and get them to work on
community projects at a minimum wage.
If Justin Trudeau were serious about creating jobs for Canadians, he would revive and expand the Local Initiatives Program begun under his father’s administration.
Larry Kazdan,
VANCOUVER, BC