Canada’s Economy Downgraded – John Rafferty MP

Parliament Hill

Parliament HillTHUNDER BAY – POLITICS – This week Canada’s economy was downgraded by the International Monetary Fund, new statistics showed the widespread pain of those have recently lost their employment, and the Harper Government continued to embarrass us internationally by reneging on a deal to help a country in desperate need.

Last week it was the Bank of Canada did it, and this week the International Monetary Fund joined them in downgrading the outlook on Canada’ economy. Both institutions have lowered their growth forecasts in each of their three most recent reports. The downgrades aren’t surprising given that in the past 12 months Canada has only created 72,300 jobs – 81,800 jobs in Alberta while the other provinces combined lost 9,500.

What we know is that Canada has a jobs crisis and the economy is underperforming in spite of all those huge corporate tax cuts, the reduction of Employment Insurance benefits, and the gutting of environmental regulations which were all designed to help create jobs and produce economic growth.  It’s time for a new approach because, clearly, the Conservative approach is failing Canadians.

The bad economy is also particularly affecting those who have lost their jobs in the last year or two.  Statistics Canada this week release new numbers on Employment Insurance usage.  In May, the number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits fell by 12,100 or 2.3%, after a year of little change. The total number of beneficiaries for the month was 504,100. The majority of provinces saw declines in the number of beneficiaries, most notably Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

Less people making use of EI benefits can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the situation, but in the case of the lower May number it is not a good thing.  EI usage can go down for a number of reasons; people finding work, going back to school, retiring, or not finding work and running out of EI eligibility.  In May, while the number of people receiving EI fell by 12,100 the economy also lost 9,400 jobs in June, with Ontario alone losing 33,900 jobs.

For people who have lost their employment in the last year more are finding it harder to find work and as a result are seeing their EI benefits run out.  It’s a very difficult situation for those individuals and families and one that I hope is only temporary. In 2015 New Democrats will offer a plan that will improve the labour market situation.

Finally, the Harper Government is making Canada look like an international deadbeat once again.  It’s sad but true but after promising Ukraine more than $200 million dollars in aid following the annexation of Crimea by Russia the Harper Government still has not delivered the much needed aid money.  They do talk a good game though.  The announcement was made with some great fanfare; a press conference, followed up by media events, and then chest thumping in Question Period.  The only thing the Conservatives forgot to do was write the check.  A minor detail.

You see I understand if Stephen Harper doesn’t care about what Canadians think about his party and his policies, but this time his behaviour is embarrassing Canada on the international stage.  In a Globe and Mail story about the failure, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Vadym Prystaiko said; “We are pouring all the money in our budget, which was completely devastated by the previous government, into the anti-terrorism campaign. We have 85,000 internal refugees.” Maybe the delay is because of the International Action Plan ads the government is busy making, or maybe they don’t plan to deliver the money at all now that they’ve gotten the positive headlines.  Either way, the failure to live up to yet another international obligation is an embarrassment to our country and everyone who lives in it, but most importantly it isn’t helping the Ukrainian people who are in dire straits at the moment.

Another tough week in Canada is behind us.  Let us hope next week brings better news and more action from our federal government on the jobs front and the international stage.

John Rafferty MP

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John Rafferty is the current Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River and a member of the New Democratic Party caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario. John was first elected to serve as MP in the 2008 federal election and was subsequently re-elected on May 2, 2011 with 48.1% of the vote.