Chris Selley: Despite Tories’ woes, Ontario election will still be a referendum on the Liberals

Wednesday’s report from the Financial Accountability Office offered plenty for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals to crow about: in 2017 Ontario enjoyed its strongest job gains since 2003, with 128,400 net new positions; and the unemployment rate continued its steady downward slide from the unpleasantness in 2009 to 6 per cent, the lowest it has been since 2000.

The Tories countered with some of the report’s less good news: “Southwestern, Eastern, and Northern Ontario only saw 1,600 net new jobs combined,” finance critic Lisa MacLeod noted in a statement; the gender pay gap “has not improved since 2011 and continues to be pervasive across industries”; and, most compellingly, “middle class families haven’t had a real raise since the 2000s.”

Median household income rose just 3.8 per cent in Ontario from 2005 to 2015, Statistics Canada reported last year — by far the worst of any province and seven points below the national number. Eight of the nine Canadian metropolitan areas where median income dropped were in Ontario, the worst being Windsor at -6.4 per cent.

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That’s not a good look for a 15-year-old government, and Economic Development Minister Steven Del Duca didn’t ignore the problems in the FAO report in his own response. He pledged to address regional job-creation disparities, the gender wage gap and the prevalence of “precarious work — though the FAO numbers on the latter aren’t as compelling, or at least as not as recent a phenomenon, as rhetoric often suggests. The number of employees holding temporary and multiple jobs is higher than in the 1990s, but has been steady since the mid-2000s. The number who want full-time work but can only find part-time has receded sine the recession back toward its 20-year average.

Regardless, Del Duca and Co. have a plan. “These findings are exactly why we took historic action to create more opportunity and security for workers with a plan for fairer workplaces and better jobs. A plan to raise the minimum wage, make university and college tuition free for middle and low income students and to provide free prescription drugs for everyone under the age of 25,” he said in a statement. “We’re committed …read more

Source:: Nationalpost


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