Canada lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs and Tories pretend there’s no problem

By Nathan Cullen, NDP MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

More than 1.3 million Canadians are out of work today. The government has added more than $150 billion in debt to the national debt. That is more than $4,000 for every man, woman, and child. We can ask what we got for it. According to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who, like most bankers, is hardly one to use such strong language, called this Canadian economy and the circumstances we are in right now “atrocious”.

We would have thought that on the eve of an election, with an economy that continues to shed jobs, the government would have brought forward some sort of, dare I say, action plan. I am not talking about the action plan the Conservatives refer to in the $750 million in self-promoting ads they constantly shower Canadians with. I am talking about an actual action plan. I know that it is hard to imagine that the spin could actually match some reality, but that is what we were hoping for. Canadians, from all the polling the government has done, have grown increasingly cynical about its advertising scheme, because it has met so little with the reality.

Canadians are waiting for action, hoping for action, and demanding action. Let us see what they actually got from the government in the most recent omnibus bill. Again, the government has moved thousands of pages of omnibus legislation through the House. In all of that omnibus legislation, there was virtually not a single amendment or change.

What typically happens, and it is true with this bill, is that an omnibus bill goes in to fix the mistakes of the last omnibus bill, which was fixing the mistakes of the omnibus bill before that. If we look up “incompetence” in the dictionary, we will now see a picture of the Prime Minister, and under a subheading, all of his legislation.

Let us look at the Canadian economy right now. It is shedding jobs in retail, manufacturing, and the energy sector. As I said, more than 1.3 million Canadians today are out of work.

There was the fiasco of the temporary foreign worker program. The Conservative government created a loophole so big someone could drive a truck through it. It put more than 300,000 Canadians out of work and brought in temporary foreign workers, with absolutely no provisions to protect Canadian jobs or even the temporary foreign workers in the job conditions under which they were going to work.

The Canadian economy has lost more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the government took over. That is more than half a million manufacturing jobs since 2000. What is the reaction? What is the response? These are the jobs we built up over generations. We built the Canadian middle class on this. We built the strength of the Canadian economy on this. Meanwhile, these guys are fiddling while Rome burns. We have lost more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs, and the Conservatives pretend that there is no problem and that there is nothing to address.

We have also seen, according to the CIBC, that job quality in Canada is at its lowest level in a generation. It has never been this bad. The work has become more precarious, jobs are becoming more part-time, and there are fewer and fewer benefits, like pensions and true protections through the employment insurance program. That has been under the Conservative and previous Liberal governments’ watch, with no addressing of it. Canadians know this experience. Their jobs have become more precarious and less certain.

This is a strange contradiction for the Conservatives. They continually stand in this place and talk about families and family-supporting jobs, yet in their policies, they go about destroying the very jobs that support Canadians and Canadian families. That is the great contradiction of Conservative policy. On the one hand, we get the talking points that say how important it is to build Canada and Canadian communities and Canadian families and all that Leave It to Beaver talk. They would like to go back in time it seems sometimes. On the other hand, the very jobs that support our homes, our communities, and our families are the very jobs the Conservatives have watched disappear, without any hint of concern whatsoever.

[Excerpts of a speech given to the House of Commons on June 15, 2015]