Jobs, jobs, jobs (and all at the bargain price of $5.5 billion)

Is all that spending really being put to its best use? And how much are we going to have to cut in order to pay for it?
Is all that spending really being put to its best use? And how much are we going to have to cut in order to pay for it?
Dorothy Dobbie  Bold Ideas
Dorothy Dobbie
Bold Ideas

There were 5,089 jobs available in Winnipeg the other day when I checked the Internet.
They ranged from hourly paid jobs to executive careers – all out there, waiting for the right person to make a match with.
There were 104 jobs at the University of Manitoba; 29 waiting at Nygard International; and at least a dozen waiting at Red River College.
There were calls for office assistants, including one by a local member of parliament; retail store clerks; project managers and granite counter top installers. The City of Winnipeg was even looking for someone to take tree inventory!
Management jobs abounded and there were lots of calls for health industry workers. The Winnipeg Football Club was looking for an events coordinator and a graphic designer. Even Canada Post was looking for someone. The list was endless and filled with exciting opportunity.
There are also lots of websites offering information about vacant jobs, many of them posted ages ago and many more of them viewed by hundreds of people. Certain websites will filter the search by salary if that’s your primary concern.
Not all of these jobs are highly skilled or technical. A “loss prevention lead” at Sears only requires a couple of years at community college; Boeing was looking for a human resources generalist with only three years’ experience and a bachelor’s degree; CIBC was looking for someone with experience in handling cash – no educational requirements listed; and Manitoba Public Insurance wanted a scheduling clerk, with only a high school diploma required.
Billions for more jobs?
So here we are with a government spending billions and promising jobs, jobs, jobs. The last time I checked the unemployment rate for Manitoba, it was 5.5 per cent, or virtually full employment in this province. And the industry crying out for the most employees was (you guessed it) the construction industry, the very industry that is supposed to fill 59,000 jobs to facilitate this massive infrastructure deficit over the next five years.
I’m all for fixing the infrastructure – that’s what government is supposed to do: make sure our roads and sewers and water mains are working. But this past year, the government was squeezing pennies so tightly that you could hear them squeak, so it stretches the credulity to hear that suddenly spending $5.5 billion over five years will allow them to present a balanced budget a year-and-a-half from now.
There are other clues that trigger doubt. The much-touted “relief” for seniors from education tax burden has been put back a year because there isn’t enough money to pay for that.
You either have the money or you don’t.
Secondly, who will fill all these construction jobs? If we don’t have enough workers to fill the ranks now, they can only come from somewhere else – some other province, some other country – and so where does the benefit go? Not to Manitoba, but to back home where the wife and kids live (these are temporary jobs, remember), be it somewhere else in Canada or somewhere else in the world.
Running with scissors
This budget reminds me of a story told to me by a former NDP minister from back in the Howard Pawley days in the ‘80s. The pantry was bare, the government was in debt, and Pawley came out with a magnificently generous budget promising all kinds of spending right where the voters’ hearts lived.
Allan Blakeney, the newly minted NDP premier of Saskatchewan at the time, came for a visit and he asked Pawley, “How can you bring down a budget like this with the terrific deficit you have? How will you ever pay down your debt?”
“Ah, don’t worry,” Pawley apparently said. “We’re on shaky ground and the Tories will be in soon. They can fix it then.”
That’s exactly what happened.
It was a bit before Brian Pallister’s time – the cutting had to start immediately (remember Filmon Fridays?). And it is exactly what will have to happen this time. Brian Pallister will have to have scissors. The only issue on the table is where the cuts will have to be made.
La même chose. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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