To the Editor,
Statistics Canada’s April employment figures revealed 29,000 jobs lost – information that will come as no surprise to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians looking for work.
Worse, the majority of losses came from full-time jobs. According to Stats Can, there’s been little overall employment growth since August 2013, and the participation rate — the percentage of adults looking for work — has now dropped to 66.1 per cent, the lowest level since 2001.
A recent Bank of Canada study says the jobs recovery has been overstated. Canadians have been given the impression by employment minister Jason Kenny that thousands of jobs go unfilled because no one in this country has the skills to fill them. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said the large difference can be explained almost entirely through the Harper government’s manipulative use of Kijiji data, which inflates job numbers because the site posts the same jobs multiple times, in different categories. The government used the Kijiji jobs data in its most recent omnibus budget, concluding that Canada had a four per cent job vacancy rate. That’s a much higher rate than the 1.3 per cent vacancy rate reported by Stats Can, but the inflated job vacancy numbers better suited the Harper government as a means to polish its tarnished image and further justify the controversial temporary foreign worker program.
Unfortunately, the problem goes deeper, and it’s a data problem of the government’s own making. The Stephen Harper government has cut funds from important labour market research, slashed Statistics Canada’s budget by half, and scrapped the mandatory long form census in favour of a less-accurate voluntary survey that the auditor general of Canada recently said cost taxpayers $22 million more than the long-form census it replaced — while producing far less reliable data and a much lower response rate.
The Harper government’s intentional quashing of necessary research and the evidence derived from it is slowly creating a knowledge gap in Canada that is already affecting policy decisions on everything from education and health care to tax rates and housing.
If the Conservatives are allowed to continue down this path for another four years, future historians may not be able to conclude much about Canada in the early 21st century, except that it was governed by ideologues that dismissed the value of research and evidence and demonstrated little regard for opinion that didn’t conform to their own.
Dr. Herb Dickieson
Herb Dickieson is a former NDP member of the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly