Tuesday is budget day. The deficit, Justin Trudeau tells us, is about job creation. Carol Goar reminds her readers that job creation is about quality as well as quantity:
This truth never penetrated Stephen Harper’s government.
Year after year, the federal finance minister would proudly announce on budget day that Canada had created tens of thousands of jobs — without mentioning that a growing number were part-time, temporary, casual or short-term. To federal statisticians, finance department officials and cabinet ministers, any job was an employment gain. To laid-off workers and hard-hit communities, these new jobs were a shabby replacement for the full-time positions lost in the manufacturing sector, outsourced to other countries or cut by employers seeking to improve their bottom lines. Many workers needed two — even three — to pay their bills.
When it comes to job creation, a recent report from Craig Alexander of the C.D. Howe Institute sets out four litmus tests which should be in the upcoming budget:
It should make “upskilling” a priority. Creating middle- and low-skill positions won’t spur economic growth or generate the prosperity the Liberals are promising. To raise workers’ incomes, boost productivity and withstand swings in commodity prices, Canada needs a better-trained workforce.
It should put employment insurance reform at the top of the federal agenda. The current system is inequitable, outdated and covers fewer than half of the unemployed.
It should undertake to provide Canadians with timely, relevant information about the labour market. Graduates need to know which skills are needed in which regions; students need to know which occupations offer the best employment prospects; laid-off workers need to know where there are job vacancies. Neither Statistics Canada nor the federal department of labour publishes this kind of information (although they have the raw data to produce it).
It should signal Ottawa’s intention to bring all working-age Canadians into the labour force. As the nation ages, it will become increasingly important to utilize the pools of labour — youth, immigrants, aboriginals, people with disabilities — that are largely untapped. That means systematically dismantling barriers such as unrecognized credentials, lack of marketable skills and prejudice.
Mr. Trudeau claims that his government is different -- in terms not just of quantity but of quality. Tuesday is where the rubber hits the road.