The monthly Labour Force Survey results came out this past week. B.C.’s unemployment rate increased from 4.4 per cent to 5 per cent. This isn’t great by any means but on a national level, it still leaves B.C. with the second-lowest unemployment rate in Canada.
However, the response from the two main political parties is exactly why we’ve seen distrust of politicians and correspondingly the media that report on them grow in recent years.
The statement from the (NDP) Minister of Jobs following the release read much like a victory lap, boasting that B.C. has created 73,800 jobs over the past year, with the average wage going up nearly a dollar to $27.54 an hour and the B.C. labour market showing its resilience with the unemployment rate at 5 per cent.
“For two years, our government has harnessed a strong and stable economy by investing in British Columbians and practising smart fiscal management despite volatility in global markets.”
Personally, I’d be embarrassed to give myself such a strongly worded pad on the back when unemployment increased by 0.6 per cent this month, representing thousands of people.
Meanwhile, if you read the BC Liberals’ response you’d think a B.C.-wide apocalypse was here speaking of “storm clouds on British Columbia’s horizon,” “two years of half-baked NDP economic policies” and “with Ontario and Saskatchewan poised to overtake B.C. as well.”
Now, while there’s some truth in both statements, it’s hard to argue that either is anything other than a polished turd flung across the proverbial fence.
Recent mill closures were undoubtedly a substantial factor in the increase in the unemployment rate and some of the main issues here, a substantial decrease in the Annual Allowable Cut and the softwood lumber dispute have been “storm clouds on British Columbia’s horizon” for longer than the “two years of half-baked NDP economic policies.”
Anyone with an ounce of knowledge looking at either statement is likely to lose some trust in both parties.
Meanwhile, rural voters looking at either statement may wonder how deep down the outhouse hole Canada is as a country if B.C. is the second-best nation-wide because up north for none of the past year it’s seemed like B.C.’s been knocking it out of the park. That’s because both parties have completely ignored the real issue: the stark difference between rural and urban B.C.
In Victoria, Vancouver and Abbotsford, the regional unemployment rates (three-month moving average, seasonally adjusted) actually dropped or were on par with the previous twelve months ranging from 4.2 to 5.2 per cent respectively.
However, once you get out of the Lower Mainland it’s a different story. In the Southern Interior, it’s 6.4 per cent (still on par with the rest of their year) and in Southern Coastal B.C. it’s 6.5 per cent (up from 5.7 per cent over the past 12 months). Meanwhile, in Nothern B.C. (including the Cariboo), it’s 9.7 per cent (up from 9.4 per cent the past 12 months).
In summary, rural B.C. was already doing significantly worse than urban B.C. and in August, the gap widened. Yet with neither party acknowledging that, it offers little hope for those actually affected. It’s also an excellent way to disenfranchise voters. If anyone wonders how voters in rural areas are driven towards more radical or populist choices, it’s moments and statements like these.