On Monday, November 25th elect

Linda McQuaig

for Toronto Centre

Linda on Creating Jobs

Solutions not talking points

With only days to go before the by-election on Monday, November 25, I want to focus on an issue that looms huge in Toronto Centre: jobs.

The Harper government’s boast to be strong on the economy is absurd considering that 1.4 million Canadians are unemployed and millions more are under-employed, stuck in temporary, casual or part-time jobs with no security or benefits.

But it’s not just that Harper has neglected the needs of working Canadians. He has actually made things worse.

The Harper government has pushed down wages by allowing companies to pay lower wages to temporary foreign workers, rather than requiring employers to train Canadians.

It has cut back the employment insurance system so that less than a quarter of jobless workers in Toronto even qualify for benefits – despite the fact that they pay into the program. And it has continued to attack unions, undermining the ability of working people to collectively press for better wages and benefits.

And the Harper government has refused to ensure financial security for workers in retirement by strengthening the Canada Pension Plan along the lines widely supported by unions and the provinces. Indeed, it has raised the retirement age to 67 – a move that reduces retirement security for all Canadians, including the most vulnerable. The government insisted it had to do this to avoid a fiscal crisis, but Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page dismissed this justification as “silly.”

Meanwhile, the Liberals talk a lot about the squeeze on middle class jobs, but have no idea what to do about the problem.

As Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland told Xtra magazine last week:

“If you worry about this [the strain on the middle class], and you agree with me that it’s really complicated, and that these are actually new problems to which there aren’t super obvious answers, then vote for us and join us in working to figure this out.”

Freeland’s own record in protecting middle class jobs isn’t impressive. As a senior executive at Thomson Reuters in New York, she oversaw the outsourcing of 25 Toronto-based jobs to India in 2011.

She treats this sort of outsourcing as inevitable and has called it “a win for smart managers.”

Both the Liberals and Conservatives have relied on cutting corporate taxes as a way to create jobs. It hasn’t worked. The corporate tax rate has been cut in half since 2000, with little job creation. As former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney acknowledged, many corporations have been sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars of "dead money" instead of investing it in job creation in Canada.  

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The NDP would make sure corporations pay their fair share of taxes, to contribute badly-needed revenue while keeping Canadian rates competitive with US and other G7 nations.

We would link future corporate tax credits directly to job creation. For instance, given the particularly high rates of youth unemployment, we have proposed tax credits for businesses hiring young people. Under the NDP proposal, businesses would be eligible for up to $1,000 for hiring a young employee and for matching funds for training that employee.

We’d also create jobs through increased public investment in infrastructure, particularly through a national housing program and expanding public transit. Housing investment has a multiplier effect that stimulates the economy and creates and sustains jobs. Each new home creates four to six person-years of direct and indirect employment. According to a report last June by the provinces and territories, combined federal-provincial-territorial funds spent on housing between 2010 and 2012 added more than $3 billion per year to the economy and created or sustained 35,000 jobs.

And we’d support urban workers in Toronto, by ending the abuse of “unpaid internships”, preventing the misclassification of employees as “independent contractors” where they are denied benefits and job security, and strengthening employment insurance so jobless workers can count on getting the benefits they need.

These are practical solutions to create quality jobs. They are achievable steps in building a more equal and more prosperous Canada.

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