By Jack Burton
Announced a little more than a month before voting day, Canada’s Sept. 20 federal election adds another wrinkle to the current moment of uncertainty.
Specifically, the state of the economy and workforce that candidates currently face is more than just a series of talking points to win favour with business-minded voters — for many employers, it’s an urgent issue that requires a clear solution as soon as possible.
Lydia Miljan, a professor of political science at the University of Windsor, pointed to recent market data showing economic retraction and inflationary pressure as two significant influences pushing candidates to focus on economic recovery, especially for employers and business owners.
“There’s a lot of complications that happen when you have the economy shut down for 18 months, and that all is part of the uncertainty,” said Miljan. “Workplaces have contracted, and we have a supply chain issue with so many (industries). If you’re a business that wants to grow, even if you have your full workforce back, you might not be able to do the job because of these supply chain issues.”
Different pathways to economic support
The demand for action in the immediate term makes voting in this upcoming election an act of survival for many employers, but which decision is the right one?
Miljan sees the primary distinction between the Liberal and Conservatives’ economic platforms to be in where their support lies, with the Liberals focusing on worker initiatives and the Conservatives banking on business loans.
Different approaches to smoothing out Canada’s current economic issues continue to be consistent among all of the parties. The NDP offers a more intense version of the Liberals’ focus on worker support, advocating for more accessible job training, paid sick leave and child-care benefits, a more robust minimum wage and EI system, and stronger bargaining rights.
Both the Green Party and People’s Party of Canada (PPC) are focusing on larger trends of economic regulation, specifically corporate bailouts. The Green Party seeks to establish a stronger system of corporate bailout accountability by tying them to workforce maintenance and performance requirements, while the PPC aims to increase Canada’s investment accessibility for both domestic and foreign entities by limiting government intervention through initiatives such as the abolishment of corporate subsidies and capital gains tax.
At the centre of the Liberals’ worker support platform is their affordable daycare policy. Miljan explained that the hope with this policy is that “if you have subsidized daycare for women, more women will be in the workforce and the economy will grow.”
While sound, Miljan is doubtful that the length of implementation that these policies require would satisfy any acute economic demands.
“The problem with that plan is that they admit that it’s going to take up to five years to get into place, and that’s not going to be the shot in the arm we need.”
The Conservatives’ grant and loan initiatives, according to Miljan, shows that they are at least mindful that the hardest hit of the pandemic were smaller, “mom and pop” businesses and main-street Canada.
“By giving them supports to help them come back, I think that might be a better short-term solution.”
Equality as a way to permanent recovery
While equality-minded policies such as the child-care support of the Liberals’ platform may require more patience, Amanda Bittner, a professor of political science at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, believes that no matter the timeline, a more equal economy is the only permanent fix to both the current turbulence and further regression.
“There are major issues that keep women out of the workforce, including child care. Until we take the needs of families seriously, we will be unable to right the ship and solve the problems of either the economy or equality,” said Bittner.
No matter the decision employers end up making, Bittner advocates that it be made out of consideration for the needs of the entire workplace, rather than just its impact on the immediate bottom line.
“Based on the last 18 months in particular, I would say that COVID-19 has laid bare some facts that have been true for quite some time, and I would guess that employers are thinking about this,” she said.
“I anticipate that all governments in the future will take seriously the need for a real economic recovery, one that incorporates the needs of the most vulnerable, and those who have suffered the most during this pandemic, including front-line workers.”
Jack Burton is a freelance writer in Toronto.
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