Skip to main content

With unemployment high, Ontario focuses on Jobs and Growth

Employed worker -- not Ontario

With the release of the 2013-14 first quarter finances report, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa has announced the start of his own consultations on the economy.

The focus (allegedly) is on "jobs and growth" .

The formal pre-budget consultations with a committee of the legislature usually start in the late fall or winter. So Sousa's consultations (which have already begun) are getting the jump.

If words mean much, the emphasis is quite different than under Dwight Duncan.

Sousa's release headlines “The Path to Jobs and Growth”.

Duncan's release of last year's first quarter finances sounded more like his imitation of the grim reaper, focusing exclusively on the deficit and the "strong action" he was taking to deal with it (“First Quarter Finances Show Strong Action Plan Working -- McGuinty Government On Track to Eliminate Deficit”).

Duncan, if you recall, was just launching his attack on public sector collective bargaining. (
That didn't end well for Duncan -- or McGuinty -- but did add a little more spark to the labour movement.)

The (claimed) focus by Sousa on jobs and growth is (hopefully) a response to the weak employment situation in Ontario. 

Adding misery to a bad situation, last week's Stats Can employment report saw declines in July in both the public sector and the private sector in Ontario, with 23,600 lost jobs in the public sector and 10,000 in the private sector, just under 34,000 down the drain in total.

That increased the unemployment rate 0.1%. Ontario is now well above the national average: 7.6% compared to 7.2%, a bit of a turn-around from the good old days when Ontario was the economic backbone of the country. 

Unemployment in Ontario would have gone up more except for a big increase in the so-called "self employed" -- which can be a pretty dubious way of being "employed".

"The Path to Jobs and Growth” makes it sound like they might try something new. But there are no signs of a jobs strategy.

Sousa merely repeated the same sort of mantra to the Toronto Star that Duncan might have: "creating a competitive business climate, investing in modern infrastructure, establishing a highly skilled workforce, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, and working with businesses to expand access to global markets". 

So rather than any major change in focus, Sousa's release may just be a change in tone, to Kathleen Wynne's preferred, kinder, gentler tone. “Dialogue” is the focus.  Certainly the McGuinty / Duncan anti-union approach of last year was killing the Liberal brand. 

But we will see if Wynne's change in tone makes any matter.

The First Quarter Numbers
Sousa is, so far, sticking to the rather high deficit estimate that the government made in the last Budget ($11.7 B -- considerably higher than last year’s deficit).

(Duncan always high-balled the deficit numbers at the beginning of the year and then beat those estimates at the end of the year, as if he was some middle manager with a low opinion of the intelligence of his principals.)

Otherwise there are few material changes since the Budget: expenditures, interest on debt, and revenue estimates remain exactly the same as in the Budget, as do the projections for real economic growth this year and next (1.5% and 2.3%).

Photo: Jonathon Koss-Reid Workers in Beijing.


Popular posts from this blog

Public sector employment in Ontario is far below the rest of Canada

The suggestion that Ontario has a deficit because its public sector is too large does not bear scrutiny. Consider the following. 

Public sector employment has fallen in the last three quarters in Ontario.  Since 2011, public sector employment has been pretty flat, with employment up less than 4 tenths of one percent in the first half of 2015 compared with the first half of 2011.

This contrasts with public sector employment outside of Ontario which has gone up pretty consistently and is now 4.7% higher than it was in the first half of 2011.

Private sector employment has also gone up consistently over that period. In Ontario, it has increased 4.3% since the first half of 2011, while in Canada as a whole it has increased 4.9%.

As a result, public sector employment in Ontario is now shrinking as a percentage of the private sector workforce.  In contrast, in the rest of Canada, it is increasing. Moreover, public sector employment is muchhigher in the rest of Canada than in Ontario.  Indeed as…

The long series of failures of private clinics in Ontario

For many years, OCHU/CUPE has been concerned the Ontario government would transfer public hospital surgeries, procedures and diagnostic tests to private clinics. CUPE began campaigning in earnest against this possibility in the spring of 2007 with a tour of the province by former British Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, who talked about the disastrous British experience with private surgical clinics.

The door opened years ago with the introduction of fee-for-service hospital funding (sometimes called Quality Based Funding). Then in the fall of 2013 the government announced regulatory changes to facilitate this privatization. The government announced Request for Proposals for the summer of 2014 to expand the role of "Independent Health Facilities" (IHFs). 

With mass campaigns to stop the private clinic expansion by the Ontario Health Coalition the process slowed.  

But it seems the provincial Liberal government continues to push the idea.  Following a recent second OCHU tour wi…

Hospital worker sick leave: too much or too little?

Ontario hospital workers are muchless absent due to illness or disability than hospital workers Canada-wide.  In 2014, Ontario hospital workers were absent 10.2 days due to illness or disability, 2.9 days less than the Canada wide average – i.e. 22% less.  In fact, Ontario hospital workers have had consistently fewer sick days for years.

This is also true if absences due to family or personal responsibilities are included.
Statistics Canada data for the last fifteen years for Canada and Ontario are reported in the chart below, showing Ontario hospital workers are consistently off work less.
Assuming, Ontario accounts for about 38% of the Canada-wide hospital workforce, these figures suggest that the days lost due to illness of injury in Canada excluding Ontario are about 13.6 days per year ([13.6 x 0.68] + [10.2 x 0.38] = 13.1).

In other words, hospital workers in the rest of Canada are absent from work due to illness or disability 1/3 more than Ontario hospital workers. 

In fact, Canad…