11/10/11

Ontario loses 75,000 FT jobs. But who cares?

Last week, the government announced that it would renege on its election funding promises. Now Dwight Duncan is making more noises about what this may mean. Here's some of his comments to the Toronto Star:

The Ontario government faces "very difficult choices" as it moves to limit spending increases to just 1 per cent, warns Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. ... Duncan said his fall economic statement the week after next would signal the belt-tightening that looms ahead as the Liberals strive to eliminate the deficit. "Traditionally, fall economic statements are about updating the numbers for the last budget. We're going to do that, but more importantly we're going to start to lay the path towards the next budget and the sorts of decisions that we are going to need to take in order to stay on target for our balanced budget (in 2017-18)," he said."Those inevitably will involve some very difficult choices."

 Duncan told a business reporter of the Globe and Mail "This will be a long period of restraint. My view continues to be that there will be a lot of difficult choices," while indicating that revenues would fall short due to reduced growth.  Clearly, the government's  fall economic statement later this month is going to be something to watch this time round.

With this, we are now hearing all sorts of advice on the new situation. Tory leader Tim Hudak wants a wage freeze, changes to the interest arbitration system for essential workers, and to "rein in the size and the cost of government" ; the former head of the Champlain LHIN is calling for more regionalization of health care; and the Globe & Mail now says "Everything is on the table, including the possibility of letting the private sector deliver some health-care services." (If so, this is also contrary to earlier Liberal promises.)

In the first eight years of the Liberal government funding increased a little over 7% per year, on average. The government had planned to move to 1.8% increases, but now plans six years of 1% increases.

Austerity has helped drive Europe into higher unemployment and economic crisis and it may well do the same here.  While there is little sign of the alternative  -- a public sector jobs and growth strategy --  in Ontario or elsewhere, it is apparent that even some conservative economists are concerned about the impact of public sector austerity on jobs, growth, the economy, and debt.

Ontario lost 75,400 full time jobs last month.  Just under 38,000 people joined the unemployed, officially.  This pushed the (official) unemployment rate to 8.1%, a half percentage point higher than the previous month, and leaving Ontario with an unemployment rate well above the national average.   

But the McGuinty government is focused on cuts instead - cuts that will drive unemployment.  And the official opposition is even less focused on jobs, with Tim Hudak making clear he will prop up the government if it implements cuts. 

For now working people (and public services) are going to be made to pay the price, it seems.  A deepening economic crisis may, however, bring new approaches to the fore.

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