A troubling economy

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Prime Minister Harper maintains he has the best solutions to Canada’s economic issues and only the Conservative party can keep our economic engine in fine working order. There are many indicators that all is not well on the economic front.  Recent studies have pointed to problems that should concern the government.

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Prime Minister Harper maintains he has the best solutions to Canada’s economic issues and only the Conservative party can keep our economic engine in fine working order. There are many indicators that all is not well on the economic front.  Recent studies have pointed to problems that should concern the government.
The labour participation rate fell 0.6 % to 65.7% in December 2014; this is the lowest level since 2000. This rate is a key measure of whether Canadians are working or looking for work; it indicates something the unemployment rate does not, in that it includes those on social assistance or who are otherwise not employed but would like to be employed. This low participation rate indicates many Canadians have lost confidence that they can find work.
Studies by major economic think tanks and other organizations, such as the TD bank, have left no doubt that Canadian society is becoming more unequal. Lower-income and middle-class workers are falling behind while the upper-income sector are making significant, above average, gains. This is bad for the economy in that it means the majority of the population is spending less. Further, this discrepancy stalls opportunities for children and youth and reduces development of human skills.
A third concern is highlighted by a recent CIBC study that shows job quality at a 25 year low; technically, this measurement is referred to as the Index of Employment Quality.  The study found that more people are working part-time instead of full-time, more people are self-employed instead of having secure employment, and more are in low-wage jobs than at any time in the last 25 years.
Add to these indicators the negative effects of the drop in the price of oil, and the overall economic performance becomes even gloomier. The increase in industrial jobs that is supposed to offset the loss of jobs in the oil sector is not happening; plants that have relocated to the third world for cheap labour are not returning to Ontario or Quebec or any other place in Canada.
However, most economists and sociologists agree that changes in federal financial policies could go a long way to mitigating these problems. Changes to tax regulations, better support for education and training, and diversification in economic sectors are urgently needed legislation at the federal level. However, these seem to counter Harper’s Conservative ideology. So, leading up to an expected election, his government is pushing questionable bills against terrorism and serious law offenders and counting on the electorate to forget about the economy.