MPs put politics ahead of jobs – comment/editorial – MPs put politics ahead of jobs
April 30, 2008

With recession choking the United States, the inevitability that tough times would spill over our border has been evident from the start. The announcements Monday that more than 900 workers were to be shed at GM’s truck assembly plant in Oshawa and that 500 jobs would be lost with the closing of Campbell Soup’s plant in Listowel are just the latest signs that hard times in the U.S. have become the dominant export from that country into Canada, and particularly Ontario.

Given how economically intertwined the two countries are, there is almost nothing Canada could do to insulate itself from the downturn in the U.S. But Ontarians are nevertheless asking what Ottawa could do at least to lessen the blow in this province. It is a fair question.

Yet it has not been adequately answered by either the Conservatives or the Liberals in Ottawa. They both appear to be more concerned with scoring cheap debating points against the other party than with proposing concrete ideas that respond to the needs of front-line workers in the battle against lost jobs.

Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives emphasize the obvious things that could be done to help those who are hardest hit, such as fixing the broken Employment Insurance system. EI ought to be the first line of defence against recession. But the system is failing unemployed Ontarians, as only about one-quarter of them qualify for EI benefits. That’s because the rules ignore the reality of the times and assume that jobs in this province are easy to get.

Neither party stresses accelerating spending on infrastructure, despite the fact that economic spinoffs from infrastructure spending tend to be far larger than from the tax cuts on which the Conservatives blew nearly the entire $13 billion surplus in their February budget.

Instead, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty blames Premier Dalton McGuinty’s provincial Liberals for the spillover of the U.S. recession into Ontario. Flaherty says the situation would be better if McGuinty used billions of dollars he doesn’t have to cut corporate taxes.

Federal Liberals in turn attack Flaherty for driving the budget back toward deficit, as if running a deficit in recession is a terrible thing to do. Forgetting they gave his tax-cutting budget their tacit approval when it came to a vote, the Liberals demand to know when he will cut spending, which, in fact, would be the worst thing Flaherty could do.

However the Conservatives and Liberals decide to score their irrelevant debating contest, Ontarians are the real losers.

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