Opposition wants action to boost Ontario economy
TORONTO - Ontario's economy will only worsen if the governing Liberals don't take urgent action in light of new unemployment figures that show the province lost more full-time jobs last month than any other region in Canada, critics warned Friday.
Statistics Canada reported that 45,500 full-time Ontario workers either lost their jobs or were put on part-time work in June - further evidence that a recession is looming, said Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory.
It also proves that Premier Dalton McGuinty's economic plan isn't working and he should immediately re-examine the province's books, Tory said from Windsor, Ont.
"I think there should be an economic update in the next 10 days," Tory said.
"This is the biggest monthly job loss since 1990. And if that isn't a wake-up call to say we need an economic update now - some revised policies, some financial statements so we can see where the province stands - I don't know what is."
McGuinty should also curb his government's jet-setting ways given the trouble that's brewing back at home, said NDP critic Peter Kormos.
Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello opened a new trade office in Paris on Thursday during a week-long European trip, while McGuinty has announced plans to travel to China in the fall after flying to Italy and California earlier this year to drum up trade for the province.
"Look, the Ontario economy is going to hell in a handbasket and while that's happening, the premier and his cabinet are doing international junkets on high-priced jets, landing in high-priced cities and staying in high-priced hotels," Kormos said.
"None of that is serving the Ontario worker and his or her family."
The real tragedy is that many of the jobs lost in the province will likely never be recovered even if the economy improves, Kormos added.
Overall, Ontario's unemployment rate rose to 6.7 per cent in June from 6.4 per cent in May.
But the job losses in Ontario aren't that surprising, said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets.
"The surprise is that over the last 12 months, Ontario has managed to match the national gain in employment growth," he said.
"If anything, we're going to see a relatively weaker performance for Ontario versus the rest of the country in the second half of the year."
The latest round of layoffs in the province's auto sector have yet to "really make their mark" in the job numbers, he added.
"Staggeringly, Ontario manufacturing jobs have actually risen in May and June and I think that's an accident waiting to happen," he said.
Last week, the provincial government released figures that showed the economy had sputtered into negative territory in the first quarter of the year - one of the first real signs that Ontario was edging closer to a recession.
The province's real GDP dropped 0.3 per cent in the January-March period, it's first period of negative growth since the third quarter of 2006.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan blamed Ontario's poor performance on a slowing U.S. economy and the high price of oil, but said the government would stick to its current strategy of investing in skills training, infrastructure and innovative technologies while lowering business costs.
Many private-sector economists are forecasting modest economic growth for Ontario this year. RBC is expecting growth of 0.7 per cent for the year, the province's weakest pace of expansion since its last recession in the early 1990s.
Nationally, there were 39,200 fewer full-time workers in June and 5,000 fewer net jobs, Statistics Canada reported.
The country's unemployment rate edged up one-tenth of a point to 6.2 per cent, the highest it's been since January 2007.