Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prorogation politics while unemployment and bankruptcies soared

The numbers out today from January in respect of both EI claims and individual bankruptcies being up are striking. What's becoming even more clear in hindsight, the fact that the Conservative government, facing a political challenge of its own making, went on a prorogation vacation for two months at what is now proving to have been an epically bad moment. This is what was happening out there while the Conservatives regrouped for their political lives and hesitated in acting for the Canadian economy:
In January alone, more than 10,000 individuals in this country filed insolvency papers, up 2.9 per cent from December.

Perhaps more tellingly, the number of Canadians who filed for employment insurance benefits rose above the 500,000 level nationally for January, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.

That represented a jump of 23,700, or 4.4 per cent compared to December.

In fact, Canadians filing for jobless help is now 23 per cent higher than the level in February 2008, the most recent low for this indicator.

"In recent months, labour market conditions in Canada have deteriorated significantly. Through the early part of 2008, employment growth weakened, only to fall sharply later that year and into 2009, causing a spike in the unemployment rate. By February 2009, the unemployment rate hit 7.7 per cent, up almost two percentage points from a record low at the start of 2008," said Canada's statistical agency in a press release.

Both figures — the bankruptcies and EI claims — are signs of growing difficulties faced by individual Canadians as the recession in this country grows.
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The deterioration in Canada's bankruptcy situation accelerated in the fourth quarter of 2008. The total number of personal and corporate solvency filings rose 9.3 per cent in the October-to-December period.
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In real terms, 295,000 jobs have vanished in the last four months.
The Conservatives are still playing catch up, scrambling today to hire people to keep up with the EI claims. And grappling with the fact that yes, they may have extended the number of weeks of benefits, but they haven't done anything about expanding eligibility. All the while comically blaming delay on budget matters on the Liberals, as if they're not the governing party who has had primary responsibility for leading on these economic challenges.

The timeline of the past year in terms of what the Conservative priorities have been speaks for itself. Summer spending spree, election, prorogation. Time that should have been devoted to the nation's interests. They're continuing with their lack of attention to economic priorities, springing up in the House of Commons to launch irrelevant partisan attacks, last night raising accusations of anti-semitism, toying with the gun registry issue that is unlikely to go anywhere, bellowing about Russia.

Two months of bought political time for the Harper Conservatives, two months of devastating numbers for Canadians.