LILLEY: Doug Ford campaigns about jobs, jobs, jobs and here’s why

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

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He mentions the drive for work at every opportunity and always associates it with his campaign slogan “Get it done.”

NDP leader Andrea Horwath has long accused Ford of leaving the good union manufacturing job.

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

However, after two years of economic turbulence, jobs have increased in Ontario and the economy has recovered remarkably well. The provincial unemployment rate stands 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 than there were four years ago.

The latest Statistics Canada figures show 7.7 million people are employed in 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 workforce has grown by 475,000 workers, but jobs overall is still going up.

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And it happens in many industries.

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

Ontario only had 7,000 more manufacturing jobs than when the Liberals left office, but with the announcement of new and updated car investment – including the construction of a large electric vehicle battery plant – this is not a winning argument for Del Duca. Norwath’s claims are about union work after a flurry of car announcements.

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Across the broader “goods-producing sector,” as Stats Canada calls it, there are 78,000 more jobs than four years ago, including 61,000 more people in construction and another 7,000 in fields such as forestry and mining. This is a job that the Liberals are not pushing in the knowledge economy race, but Ford has been a champion in the sector.

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The other job reports didn’t do much for Horwath or Del Duca either. Both party leaders were happy to reiterate that Ford has cut health care and education, that we have fewer people working in these areas because of the cuts.

That is not true.

Ontario primary and secondary schools have 5,000 more teachers and 1,000 more PAUD workers now than they did in 2018. Across the broader 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 are 836,000 people working in what Stats Canada calls “health care and social assistance” while there are now 941,000 people working in this field.

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One of the few areas where there are no more jobs is in accommodation and food service. 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 being added every month.

Talking about jobs is natural for Ford in this scenario, the numbers look good in Ontario right now. Which also makes it difficult for Horwath and Del Duca to credibly make claims that the job situation is not good at the moment.

There are other challenges facing voters, such as the cost of living, which have no serious policy answer for leaders. But if you’re wondering why Ford mentions jobs at every stop, just read the latest figures from Statistics Canada.

bliley@postmedia.com

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