Conservatives’ alleged job growth evades youth

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Peter Gilmer has been with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry for 18 years

Peter Gilmer has been with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry for 18 years

Youth unemployment has jumped from 12.2 per cent to 14 per cent since 2006

Article: Evan Radford – Contributor

The logo for the federal government’s Economic Action Plan features three arrows, running forward on a horizontal plane, suddenly surging up onto a vertical axis. The arrows form one collective arrow presumably representing the Canadian economy.

But the logo functions as a distraction, rather than affirmation, from the government’s economic record over the past seven years. While the Conservative party continues to tout its allegedly steady hand in managing and stimulating the Canadian economy, what is its record in creating jobs for young people?

Data released by Statistics Canada shows Canadian young people still remain at high unemployment rates. Several Ottawa-based think tanks agree; Canadian youth struggle and fail to find work, while the federal government fails to create job opportunities for them, despite its claims to growth and prosperity.

Consider the following numbers: the national unemployment rate in Jan. 2006 was 6.6 per cent. As of last month the same measurement was 7.2 per cent. The youth unemployment rate has jumped from 12.2 per cent to 14 per cent in this time period. For the record, Statistics Canada classifies youth as between the ages 15 and 24. What about numbers in the next age category?

The unemployment rate for men and women aged 25 to 54 is at 6.1 per cent, as of Dec. 2013. The real kicker is the fact people who give up looking for work are excluded in the unemployment category for Statistics Canada.

“They’re not tracked outside the labour force; four-fifths of the decline in the unemployment rate has been people dropping out of the labour force. People give up looking for work,” explains David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“Youth are hit particularly hard. Youth today are no more employed than they were at the worst time of the recession,” Macdonald says.

Peter Gilmer of the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry stresses that youth unemployment is an issue across Canada. Within Regina, he sees young single mothers, single youth, Métis youth and First Nations youth struggling most frequently with unemployment.

Gilmer says financial cuts to valuable social programs have hindered chances for these young people to find and maintain stable jobs. The programs originally provided support to young people in seeking employment. Why does this matter now?

Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty announced the 2014-15 federal budget, dubbed the Economic Action Plan, would be tabled on Feb. 11.

“The government has for the last few years tried to get the budget back into balance and out of deficit,” notes Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

The manager of the non-partisan, Ottawa-based think tank believes this focus on eliminating federal debt is the priority that’s driving everything else.

“The key driver here is a balanced budget in 2015, which would be in time for the next federal election,” Crowley says.

As Crowley suggests, a balanced, debt-free budget will likely be a claim the Conservatives use to garner votes in the 2015 federal election.

All governments want to portray themselves as good economic managers, including Stephen Harper’s Conservative party, Macdonald notes.

The problem is the Conservative party will be campaigning for Canadian votes based on false claims of job growth fueled by tax breaks.

Simon Lewchuk, a socio-economic policy analyst with the advocacy group, Citizens for Public Justice, clearly explains the problem for young people: “Current tax credits are policies that benefit people with high levels of income.”

It follows that people with little to no income cannot use the tax credits the Conservative party alleges benefit Canadians, young or otherwise.

One would hope that in 2015 young Canadian voters sift through the rhetoric and false claims of job creation to see the Conservative party’s poor record in securing stable employment for the country’s youth.

Image: Evan Radford

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