Canadian Elections: Harper Challenged on Job Creation

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Jordan Brennan of Unifor says Harper’s dismal record over the last 10 years leaves no reason to think that employment will improve during another term

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Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

Economic security and jobs are primary in the minds of Canadians leading up to this federal election that will be held on October 19, that is, this coming Tuesday.

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER: If you look at the 1.3 million net new jobs that have been created over the past six years, they are 90 percent full-time. They are over 80 percent in the private sector. And they are by and large in high-wage industries, which is why overall average wage rates have been rising, and I see no reason why we could not replicate that kind of number going forward.

PERIES: Joining us now to break down the real facts is Jordan Brennan. Jordan is joining us from Toronto and he works as an economist for UNIFOR, Canada’s largest union in the private sector. Thank you so much for joining us, Jordan.

JORDAN BRENNAN: My pleasure.

PERIES: Jordan, let’s talk about Harper’s record. Unemployment is at 6.8 percent in the general economy and at 10 percent for youth. And the youth unemployment rate is always a good indicator in terms of how the economy is doing. Give us a sense of what you think Harper’s track record has been in terms of jobs and the labor market.

BRENNAN: Well, we actually have some long-term facts. Here at Unifor we produced a report evaluating the Harper government over the past decade. And we compared Stephen Harper with all the major Canadian post-war prime ministers. So that’s nine different prime ministers in Canada since 1945. And his track record on job creation is very poor. And that’s putting it mildly. Average job creation has been about 1 percent over the last decade. And that means that Stephen Harper ranks worst of all post-war prime ministers in Canada in terms of job creation.

Now, you flagged the unemployment rate as being just under 7 percent. But I think that could be a misleading indicator, because it hides a lot of negative labor market activity. The employment rate is a better, I think, indicator of the overall job picture. And what we saw is the employment rate contract by a couple of points in the great recession of 2008-2009. Hundreds of thousands of jobs shed. And it really hasn’t picked up to a significant extent since 2009. It’s kind of been limping along for the last six years. And so while the unemployment rate can be artificially lowered by people exiting the labor market, because don’t forget, unemployment is defined as someone who is actively seeking employment over the past four weeks. But the moment you stop actively seeking employment you’re no longer classified as unemployed. So that number can be artificially improved by people exiting the labor force.

The employment rate accounts for that fact. And so it, I think, is a better indicator. And it tells us that job creation and the jobs picture in Canada has been dismal.

PERIES: Jordan Brennan with Unifor, thank you so much for joining us today.

BRENNAN: Pleased to be with you.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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