This will be the first generation of Canadians in our history to be worse off than their parents.
That blunt fact is the new reality of our country, where seven per cent of workers are officially jobless (and much more if hidden unemployment is included) and youth unemployment stands at over 13 per cent. And that reality is a direct result of the policies and actions of this Conservative government and the Mulroney government that came before it.
Friday's headlines point to the 26,000 auto parts jobs at risk as Harper drives ahead to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Early reports said dairy farmers would be the main victims of the TPP if Canada's farm marketing systems were dismantled. But now the auto sector is under the gun, as the U.S. and Japan seek to flood the market in violation of the original NAFTA deal.
It is no surprise that the Conservatives would sacrifice industrial jobs in Ontario. Since signing the free trade deal with Korea, our exports to Korea have declined seven per cent, and our trade deficit with that country alone is headed to $4 billion. The other trade deals that Harper trumpets have almost all been about securing benefits for mining and oil companies to operate in other parts of the world, but have resulted in the largest balance of payments deficits in Canadian history -- over $60 billion in the last year. That's a lot of jobs -- and represents the real deficit that Canadians should focus on.
The most blatant betrayal of Canadian workers is the story of Stelco being bought out by US Steel. The takeover of our country's largest steel company was approved by the Harper government despite warnings from the United Steelworkers. US Steel immediately declared war on its employees in Hamilton and Nanticoke, sparking lengthy strikes and lockouts. It then closed the main steel mill in Hamilton, in direct violation of the "net Canadian benefit" clause in the takeover agreement. Harper did nothing.
In September, US Steel announced that it would close both Canadian locations and shift all production to the U.S. if it was not allowed to wipe out all benefits for 20,000 pensioners and pay no more taxes to the City of Hamilton. To date, Harper has done nothing.
This is not a new attitude for the Conservatives. The original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement wiped out nearly a third of all industrial jobs in Ontario. Then NAFTA saw an exodus of production to Mexican operations. In the last few years, the Mr. Christie's Etobicoke plant, Caterpillar and Kellogg's in London, and Heinz in Leamington all shut down operations and product lines were moved to the U.S. or Mexico. The only response of federal government leaders was to blame Canadian workers for not agreeing to massive wage cuts.
Here in Toronto, it was Conservative City Councillors who opposed the "Made in Canada Matters" campaign and demanded that Toronto offer to buy subway cars made in China instead of Ontario. In fact, the CETA trade deal that Harper signed recently will make it illegal for cities or provinces to favour Canadian products -- whether they are transit vehicles, uniforms, or personal data storage.
Given that record of betrayal, it's no surprise that the Conservatives are willing to trade away another 26,000 jobs. It's a core feature of their global brand.