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Ontario Tories blame previous Liberal government for job losses in August

Last Updated Sep 7, 2018 at 10:01 pm EDT

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaking at MacDonald Block in Toronto on July 27, 2018. CITYNEWS

The Liberal party’s 15-year rule in Ontario is to blame for the major job losses the province recorded in August, the Progressive Conservative government said Friday, as economists offered different explanations for the one-month drop.

In its monthly labour force survey, Statistics Canada reported that Ontario shed 80,100 jobs last month, almost all of which were part time, pushing its unemployment rate up to 5.7 per cent, from 5.4 per cent.

“The latest job numbers are a reminder of the (former premier Kathleen) Wynne Liberals’ 15-year legacy of scandal, waste and mismanagement,” Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson said in a brief statement.

The Tory government has “put forward a plan to get Ontario back on track,” he said without elaborating on the specific reasons for the job losses.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said Wilson’s remarks were not based on facts, saying the Tories, who took power in June, inherited one of the top economies in the world.

“We’ve been outpacing the G7 in jobs and growth. We’ve got the lowest unemployment rate in decades,” he said. “The real question to me is, they’ve inherited a strong economy – what are they going to do with it? Impulsive actions like cancelling contracts with legislation is sending the wrong message to the investment community.”

University of Toronto economics professor Angelo Melino said the volatility in the labour force survey at the provincial level is likely due to the smaller sample size which can account for large swings month to month.

“If you look at what’s happened in Ontario, although this month’s decline was very, very sharp, it had two very large, out-sized months of growth previous to that,” he said. “If you average out over three months or six months, the picture that you get is one of reasonable growth.”

Melino said the province should be concerned if these losses continue for several months, but looking at longer-term figures gives a more accurate read on employment rates.

“If you look at the numbers, on a year-on-year basis employment is up three per cent in Ontario,” he said. “That’s very, very strong over the last 12 months. That’s a much more informative number than the month-to-month variation.”

The New Democrats said that while the figures are a snapshot, they will be watching to see if the figures are the beginning of a trend.

Catherine Fife, the party’s jobs, employment, research and innovation critic, said Premier Doug Ford and his government have sent negative signals to the business community by cancelling the cap-and-trade system and by ripping up existing green energy deals.

“Mr. Ford’s string of short-sighted decisions and backward priorities compromises confidence in our economy and threatens the continued creation of good jobs in this province,” she said.

Fife, who held a new conference to discuss the monthly numbers – a regular practice under the previous government – slammed the Tories for not directly addressing the monthly job reports since they took power.

“We will be here every month commenting on them,” she said. “They are a measure of how the government is performing when it comes to the economy. It’s a valuable check-in and it certainly matters for the people in this province who are struggling to find work.”

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the numbers raise concerns about the new Tory government’s actions and should be a “wake up call” for Premier Ford.