LILLEY: Doug Ford campaigning on jobs, jobs, jobs and here’s why

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Doug Ford has staked his re-election bid on “rebuilding Ontario’s economy with better jobs and bigger paycheques.”

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He mentions the push for jobs at every opportunity and always ties it in with his campaign slogan of “Getting it done.”

NDP leader Andrea Horwath has long accused Ford of abandoning good unionized manufacturing jobs.

And Liberal leader Steven Del Duca has dismissed Ford’s focus on manufacturing as not bringing jobs back to the province.

After two years of economic turbulence though, jobs are up in Ontario and the economy has recovered remarkably well. The province’s unemployment rate sits at 5.4%which is slightly higher than the national rate of 5.2% but lower than the 5.9% unemployment rate when Ford took office in 2018.

There are also more people working now compared to four years ago.

The latest Statistical Canada figures show 7.7 million people working across all industries in Ontario now compared to 7.2 million in June 2018. The total population has increased in that time by nearly 600,000 workers and the labor force has grown by 475,000 workers, but overall employment is still up.

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And it’s up across many industries.

The criticism by Del Duca that Ford hasn’t brought back significant manufacturing jobs may be fair, but it isn’t a point he should really focus on. When the Liberals took office in late 2003, Stats Can put the number of manufacturing jobs at just shy of 1.1 million. By the time they left office, there were just 776,000 manufacturing jobs.

Ontario only has 7,000 more manufacturing jobs than when the Liberals left office, but with announcements of new and renewed auto investment — including the building of a massive electric vehicle battery plant — this isn’t a winning argument for Del Duca. Neither is Horwath’s claim about union jobs after the flurry of auto announcements.

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Across the wider “goods producing sector,” as Stats Canada calls it, there are 78,000 more jobs compared to four years ago, including 61,000 more people working in construction and another 7,000 in areas like forestry and mining. These are jobs the Liberals didn’t push for in the race for the knowledge economy, but Ford has become the champion of these sectors.

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The rest of the jobs report doesn’t offer much to help Horwath or Del Duca either. Both party leaders love to repeat that Ford has cut health care and education, that we have fewer people working in these fields due to his cuts from him.

It’s not true.

Ontario’s elementary and secondary schools have 5,000 more teachers and 1,000 more ECE workers now than they did in 2018. Across the wider education sector — which includes colleges, universities, private schools, tutoring businesses etc. — Stats Canada says there are 567,000 people working now compared to 505,000 in 2018.

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There were 836,000 people working in what Stats Canada labels “health care and social assistance” while now there are 941,000 people employed in these fields.

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One of the few areas without significantly more jobs is in accommodation and food services. The hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic and is still struggling, but even that area is growing with more jobs added every month.

Talking about jobs is a natural for Ford in this scenario, the numbers are looking good in Ontario right now. Which also makes it difficult for Horwath and Del Duca to credibly make claims that the employment situation isn’t good right now.

There are other challenges voters face, like the cost of living, that no leader has serious policy answers for. But if you wonder why Ford mentions jobs at every stop, just read the latest numbers from Statistics Canada.

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