FOR BRANT NEWS
In my last Brant News column I took a hard line on employment, something I believe is top of mind for people in Brant.
Looking at statistics, we’ve seen it’s been a tough economy. Employment in many regions like ours is generally stagnant and is about the same as it was last year despite over a year of Conservative majority government.
The Conservatives run each election on a platform of long-term growth and prosperity, but where are the results? They point to program after program, but programs have to deliver results in regions like ours.
This is a theme you hear in coffee shops, meeting places and Facebook message threads across the riding.
Our unemployment rate has been stuck at a level higher than the national, provincial and regional averages consistently for years now. My anger about the subject is not new or shocking to the people who live here. With that said, I was always taught to not just oppose, but to also propose ideas for positive change.
What can we do that is different?
I think it is a matter of priorities. When the Conservative government talks about a strong economy, they’ll point to resource development, oil and bank profits. Fine, but what about the quality and quantity of work for everyday people?
What about the growing number of working poor? The proliferation of unsecure and low wage work? The abuse of temp work? The opening of our borders to temporary foreign workers when there are folks here who could be re-trained to work those jobs?
Too often, people feel if you ask a politician about job creation they’ll talk in circles for what seems like an hour without actually saying much. Too often that is exactly what happens.
I’m as tired of that kind of political rhetoric as you are.
In my last column, I may have appeared pessimistic talking about another factory closure in our community, but I’m also keenly aware that there are some very prudent things governments can be doing to help create the right climate for job creation, right now.
I’m actually quite hopeful we can create an economy that works for Canadians while at the same time improving employment, if we make some practical adjustments toward infrastructure and education.
Municipalities have been making their case to Ottawa for long-term, stable infrastructure investments that will create long-term conditions for economic growth while putting tens of thousands of people to work in family-sustaining jobs.
This isn’t about reckless spending, but is instead about a targeted investment that pays us back three times – once in job creation, once in having the infrastructure to move goods and build the economy and once in preventing accidents and other expensive unfortunate events from occurring.
Next, we need to systematically target education and training toward the jobs we will need in our communities now and for the next 20 years. It seems odd to me that while hundreds of thousands of Canadians are suffering from unemployment, our government is providing incentives for the hiring of thousands of temporary foreign workers.
Conservative Minister Jason Kenney says “there are large and acute growing labour shortages in many regions and industries in this country.” Then why aren’t we stopping this job bleed by training Canadians to fill these jobs? Why are we seeing instead the Conservatives fast tracking 3,000 foreign workers next year?
The Conservatives have incentivized companies to hire foreign workers by allowing them to often pay them less than Canadians. Their next idea is to flood the job market with skilled foreign workers by fast tracking them into the country by the thousands.
Instead, we should incentivize training programs that would see those already in Canada who are unemployed and under-employed get the training they need to fill not just these jobs, but the tens of thousands of jobs that our economy will need in the future.
We’ve known about a skilled labour shortage for over a decade now. Perhaps we should finally do something about it that gets more Canadians working in family-sustaining jobs.
Marc Laferriere is the Brant NDP federal candidate of record.