Letter: Wooing the bamboozled in election season

Feds celebrate having created 1.2 million net new jobs since the recession, but this has not even kept up with population growth.

To the editor:

According to Statistics Canada, Kelowna’s unemployment rate for April was sunny at 4.1 per cent, a full point lower than it was before the recession.

An inherent fault of the unemployment rate, however, is that it fails to count the “hidden unemployed” – the ones who don’t qualify for EI or whose benefits have expired, the discouraged workers who stop looking for work, the employees who are involuntarily working part-time or holding other precarious positions.

The hidden unemployed are becoming legendary, not least because of changing EI eligibility rules. In September 2014, it was reported that more than 60 per cent of unemployed Canadians fail to qualify for benefits. As for the precariat, the CBC reported earlier this month that “even in the glittering horseshoe of Southern Ontario, barely half of working adults have full-time permanent jobs, and almost all job growth now seems only to expand the insecure work, the kind that has little prospect of outstripping inflation.”

Adding to the problem that about half the employed of Kelowna are grossly underemployed, the employment rate in our city is two points lower than it was in May 2008. There are fewer people employed today than before the darkest days of the financial crisis.

That trend repeats at the national level. The government celebrates having created 1.2 million net new jobs since the recession, but this has not even kept up with population growth. Canada’s youth suffer in particular with an unemployment rate twice as high as the national average. Since the recession, there has not been a single month where the youth unemployment rate was as low or the employment rate as high as before the recession hit.

Given the upcoming election in October, it’s not surprising the Conservatives are out to woo the bamboozled. MP Ron Cannan recently announced a new project through the Youth Employment Strategy meant to help 48 youth in Kelowna gain the skills and experience they need to get jobs. MP Dan Albas has announced a new national program to help veterans increase skills training and enhance their employment opportunities.

But the witting amongst us remember that it was the Youth Employment Strategy that suffered the deepest cuts when a promised $97 million went unspent last year at Employment and Social Development Canada. We remember the promised but unspent $1.1 billion for Veterans Affairs, which was also reallocated to general revenues. Indeed, we remember the $1.8 billion that was raided from EI funds and likewise reallocated in preparation for Budget 2015. We whistle at the sheer audacity of these reckless politicians who’ve made brand new spending promises for the unemployed after balancing the budget on the backs of our struggling sons, daughters, vets, wives, husbands and neighbours.

As cheques change hands, glasses clink and voices become hilarious on the Conservative barbeque circuit this summer, we the unemployed and their justice-minded allies will be working towards the defeat of the Harper government this fall. Join us.

Dianne Varga,

Kelowna