JOBS AND AFFORDABILITY: FOUR THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VOTE
Jobs, jobs, jobs: It's a mantra the major party leaders have repeated often on this campaign to court voters whose pocketbooks have been torn up by dwindling oil prices and soaring real-estate prices. But what can Ottawa do? Here's a primer on what the leaders propose
Windsor, Ont., a hub of Canada's manufacturing industry, has a 9-per-cent unemployment rate in August, Canada's highest.
Canada's manufacturers have been pulling out of a slump recently, fuelling some cautious optimism for Canada's economic recovery. But the number of manufacturing jobs is dramatically lower than what it was a decade ago. The federal party leaders have offered incentives to manufacturing – which now accounts for roughly 10 per cent of Canada's economy – to create new jobs.
Meanwhile, the auto industry is also anxious about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between Canada and 11 other countries that Ottawa has been negotiating for years and was finally announced on Oct. 5. Industry fears TPP would lead to an influx of foreign-made parts that would weaken auto makers' current protections under NAFTA, endangering Canadian jobs instead of creating more.
- Conservatives: In Whitby, Ont., on Oct. 6, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said that, if the Tories are re-elected, the auto industry would get $1-billion over 10 years to make up for the economic impact of TPP. Mr. Harper had previously said that the auto industry may not like everything in the trade deal, but that rejecting it would be a “disaster” that would cut the auto industry off from global supply chains. The Tories also say they will create new facilities and funds to foster innovation in the manufacturing sector.
- NDP: New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair says an NDP government would support manufacturing industries through targeted tax credits. Mr. Mulcair has questioned whether the government has the authority to negotiate a trade deal during the campaign, and wrote a letter to the International Trade Minister saying an NDP government wouldn’t feel obligated to adhere to TPP.
- Liberals: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has pledged to invest $200-million annually in an “Innovation Agenda” to help manufacturers and other industries find new ways to compete, as well as $100-million annually in the Industrial Research Assistance Program. Mr. Trudeau has said he supports TPP, but also says the Conservative government has been too secretive about the negotiations and affirmed in the Liberals’ platform, released Oct. 5, that a Liberal government would “continue to defend Canadian interests during trade negotiations, including supply management.”
- ABCs of TPP: Understanding what’s in the deal
- Fate of Canada’s auto industry unclear as TPP eases Japanese import costs
Canada's youth unemployment rate sits at 13.1 per cent, double the national average.
Younger Canadians' job prospects have improved little since the last federal election, and youth are increasingly likely to have temporary jobs. The major parties have offered pledges to help millennial workers find less-precarious employment and get the skills they need to get better paying full-time work.
- Liberals: The Liberals have pledged to invest $300-million more annually in a Youth Employment Strategy, and to waive employment insurance premiums in certain cases to help young people find jobs. (They also plan to cut EI premiums from the current $1.88 per $100 earned to $1.65.) The Liberals have pledged to give $500-million annually to the provinces and territories for training programs, with an additional $200-million for training workers who can’t get federal training and $50-million for aboriginal education.
- Conservatives: In its April budget, the Conservative government promised postsecondary institutions $65-million to help them “better align curricula with the needs of employers.” The Conservatives have also vowed to cut EI premiums by 2017 to $1.49 per $100 earned, and to create new tax credits and training programs for young people who want to enter skilled trades.
- NDP: Mr. Mulcair has pledged new money over four years for partnerships with the private sector and NGOs to create 40,000 jobs for young people. An NDP government would also freeze EI premiums for four years and phase out interest on federal student loans.
- Andrew Jackson: Labour market policy is about more than unemployment
- Full-time work rises for women, declines for men, young people
In 2013-14, Canadian families spent about $5.7-billion on child care.
A March, 2015, report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer found the average family's child-care spending represents about 5 per cent of their total household expenses. Quebec has tried to ease that burden with a $7-a-day publicly funded daycare program that, according to research by Quebec economist Pierre Fortin, has reaped big windfalls for the province (and Ottawa) in income tax over the years by bringing more women into the workforce.
- NDP: Mr. Mulcair proposes a universal daycare system – costing $5-billion a year after an eight-year phase-in period – that would cost parents no more than $15 a day. An NDP government would also increase parental leave time by five weeks.
- Conservatives: Last year, the Conservative government expanded the Universal Child Care Benefit program, which it introduced in 2006. In July, the Tories also gave a one-time boost of $3-billion to the UCCB program.
- Liberals: The Liberal platform calls a national child-care program “impractical and unfair,” but suggests that a Liberal goverment would pursue a national “framework” negotiated with provinces, territories and indigenous groups. The Liberals promise to work with provinces to introduce a “flexible” system of parental benefits that would let parents take time off in smaller blocks, or in a longer block with reduced benefits. Liberals would create a “Canada Child Benefit” of up to $533 a month per child, supported in part by a tax hike on wealthier Canadians and tax cuts for the middle class.
- The case for publicly funded child care in Canada
- Better daycare for $7/day: One province’s solution
One in five Canadian renters face an affordable housing crisis.
Whether you own a home, want to buy one or are renting, chances are Canada's soaring real-estate costs have already hit you in the pocketbook. A recent study by a coalition of affordable-housing groups and the Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (which included the figure above) found 40 per cent of renters spend more than 30 per cent of their household income on rent and utilities, with rents especially high in suburbs where developers have built less rental or social housing.
Owning a home is especially unaffordable in Toronto and Vancouver; a report from Royal Bank of Canada earlier this year found that it now takes 91 per cent of the average pretax household income to afford a two-storey house in Vancouver.
- Conservatives: The Conservatives have pledged to raise the limit on the Home Buyers’ Plan from $25,000 to $35,000 to let first-time home buyers withdraw from tax-free accounts for down payments. They would also establish a permanent Home Renovation Tax Credit for expenses between $1,000 and $5,000. If re-elected, the Conservatives would also begin collecting data on foreign ownership of Canadian real estate to see whether speculation by overseas buyers is driving housing costs too high.
- Liberals: A Liberal government would offer tax breaks to developers who build new rental properties, give millions to landlords to renovate existing housing stocks and remove limits on how often Canadians can use their RRSPs to pay for their homes. The Liberals have also promised to study what’s driving up home and condo prices in Toronto and Vancouver.
- NDP: The NDP has promised to increase affordable housing through grants and loans from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but Mr. Mulcair has mostly focused on the NDP’s child-care pledge and a promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour as ways to make home ownership more attainable to Canadians.
- What readers think about Canada’s affordable housing crisis
- Stephen Quinn: Housing a crucial but ignored federal election issue