Parties clash over meaning of August jobs numbers for economic future

The main federal parties campaigning for the Oct. 19 vote had sharply contrasting takes on the job numbers released by Statistics Canada today, and what the government should do to get more people back to work.

Canada added 12,000 new jobs in August, but unemployment's slightly up

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says Conservative policies have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Canada. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The main federal parties campaigning for the Oct. 19 vote had sharply contrasting takes on the job numbers released by Statistics Canada today, and what the government should do to get more people back to work.

The data agency said the economy added 12,000 jobs in August, bolstered by a gain in full-time employment. The unemployment rate rose to seven per cent as 40,000 more people were looking for work.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair latched onto the increase in unemployment, saying it is a sign that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have failed to encourage economic growth.

"The fact that the unemployment rate is up to seven per cent, that is another indication that Mr. Harper's plan is not working. For 10 years, we've seen increasing job losses, particularly in the manufacturing sector," he said during a campaign stop in Brossard, Que., Friday morning. 

"We've lost 400,000 good jobs in the manufacturing sector, and with Friday's figures there is now 200,000 more people unemployed now than in the last recession."

Mulcair then added his often-repeated line that Harper is the only prime minister in modern history to reside over two recessions while in office.

The NDP leader was in Brossard to re-announce the plan he would put in place if he's elected prime minister: to convene a first ministers meeting within six months of taking office to develop a strategy to boost the Canada and Quebec pension plans

Shortly after Statistics Canada issued the jobs report, Conservative candidate Tony Clement said the numbers backed up what the party has been telling voters — that Harper's fiscal plan is paying off despite global economic turbulence.

Just days ago, the Conservatives were forced to defend their track record when Statistics Canada reported the country was in recession during the first half of the year. Canada's last recession started in late 2008 and lasted three quarters. 

But Clement pointed to other measures of economic activity to back his position that Canadians shouldn't gamble with their fiscal future by voting for Mulcair's New Democrats or the Liberals under Justin Trudeau.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper called the August job numbers 'overall quite positive,' and pointed to the trend of part-time to full-time work as a sign of Canada's strong job market. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

He pointed to the positive economic growth in June and increase in exports in the manufacturing sector that were laid out in Statistics Canada's Tuesday report on gross domestic product.  

"Now we've seen that Canada created over 50,000 full-time jobs last month," Clement said.

Indeed, 54,400 full-time jobs were added to the economy in August, offset by a loss of 42,400 part-time jobs, bringing the balance of new jobs to 12,000.

Campaigning in Whitehorse, Harper said the numbers "are overall quite positive," particularly because of the continuing trend toward more full-time employment.

"While the unemployment rate ticked up," he added, "it did so because the participation rate in the labour force went up."

Trudeau touts infrastructure investments

The Statistics Canada report found that six in 10 provinces saw more hiring: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and even Alberta, where low oil prices have shaken the provincial economy and called into question the federal Conservative hold on the province.

But the youth unemployment rate was virtually unchanged, and Nova Scotia Liberal candidate Scott Brison said the overall jobs picture has been blurred under the Conservatives.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was in Richmond Hill, Ont., on Friday, where he pledged $20 billion for public transit projects. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

"The youth unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at almost twice the national average," said Brison. "But this isn't just about one month or even one year; the economy has suffered and the middle class has fallen behind under Stephen Harper's decade of economic mismanagement."

His comments were echoed by Trudeau, who said during a campaign event in Richmond Hill, Ont., that Harper has been "unable to provide growth that we need."

"He's put all his eggs in the high oil price basket and he's continued to give tax breaks and benefits to the wealthiest of Canadians instead of investing in the middle class," he said. 

The Liberal leader was in the north Toronto riding to pledge $20 billion for public transit projects. The money is part of the $60 billion he has previously committed to investing in infrastructure projects, which he says are the key to creating new jobs and spurring economic growth. 

With files from The Canadian Press


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