Strap in — Canada’s economy is changing and voters need to shape it

A convergence of new realities, rekindled memories, and startling numbers has put politics, economics, and government policy into a sharp focus as Canada prepares for an election coming up in a few weeks.

In British Columbia, COVID, the New Democratic Party, climbed almost a full point to an all-time high of 37 in the latest Mainstreet/Postmedia poll.

This massive wave of data, polling, and analysis was called COVID back in 2014 by the late Lisa Thomson, vice-president of Insights West.

Her big idea was the idea that in the age of crowd-sourcing, media coverage, social media, and technology platforms, no province can afford to be on its own anymore.

Now we have today the release of Statistics Canada’s LAB TRADING report, and the numbers are perhaps the greatest indictment of economic theory as well as economic reality.

The news released by Statistics Canada today tells us that manufacturing is anemic and weak, despite the “global upswing” and strong domestic demand. This is due to the larger scale of manufacturing operations in the United States and because of the uncertain economic future that Canada faces with a Trump-era wall the likes of which the world has never seen.

Now we have just been told, yet again, that manufacturing employment in Canada’s biggest province, Ontario, has declined for a whopping 50 percent since 2000. Ontario has also lost a staggering 1 million jobs since its peak in 2006. More provinces are likely to follow Ontario down the path of decline.

The Trudeau Liberals have established themselves at the ideological left end of Canadian politics. But they will not be able to move Canada leftward because reality doesn’t really support them. The loonie is a strong and vibrant currency, but domestic demand is eroding. Losing 4.4 million manufacturing jobs and losing jobs in every sector means losing Canadians’ confidence in their economic future.

The energy sector, long the province’s bedrock, has also seen its production fall by 20 percent. Ontario is a big oil and gas province. A resurgence in oil and gas could make the Canadians that the Liberals spent a decade and a half wooing more supportive of their agenda. Instead, Ontario will suffer as more jobs are lost.

Ontario deserves to be governed by politicians who understand that it is not innovation, technology, and skill-based decisions that lead to breakthroughs in industry. Canadian companies created 20,000 jobs in the last quarter, but Ontario lost more than 5,000 in the same period. Ontario companies also created half of all new jobs this year, yet Ontario job seekers are an equivalent size to those who were laid off.

The Liberals created the Liberals, a system that is well beyond its expiration date. Ontario voters would be wise to help pull our nation into the 21st century and elect politicians who understand economics and that innovation is not a byproduct of skill. They need to understand that innovation is the essential foundation of growth and prosperity.

In British Columbia, with the leadership of John Horgan and Andrew Weaver, the NDP have reshaped how politics has worked in B.C. for the better. Two parties in British Columbia have bucked the system. British Columbians now have the chance to see what happens when opposition forms a government.

We need that opportunity in Ontario. Canadians who feel a bit of turbulence and angst about the future of their country and their province should have the chance to choose a different direction.

A new poll suggests that David Bertschi has the momentum with the Green Party in the Ontario election. This kind of outcome would be a real shock.

This is about leadership, vision, and action. Leaders need to articulate long-term plans for economic development and competitiveness, while visions for young adults, workers, and families need to change.

Leaders need to make sense of big data, tax reform, and free trade. Voters need to demand that their representatives understand economic realities and make the hard choices.

A consensus needs to emerge that can build a whole new Canada for a new century. This consensus will only come if politicians get in front of these new realities and take them on.

Bruce Arthur is the reporter and editor for iPolitics, where this piece originally appeared.

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