Northumberland politicians ignore economic tailspin

By Robert Washburn

As global investors dumped everything from corporate bonds to foreign currency last week, Northumberland-Quinte West candidates gave little attention to worldwide fears of another recession.

Markets reeling from economic weakness around the globe responded negatively as governments and central banks try to get themselves on track. Asian markets continued to drop and the U.S. Federal Reserve unveiled another round of economic stimulus.

Meanwhile, analysts are saying the Greek debt default is becoming inevitable and European efforts to prevent it are simply prolonging hardship. Greece is not alone. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland all face a similar fate. France and Britain also struggle as all try to reduce debt and cut spending.

Canadians are worried, too. The last recession in 2008 to 2009 cost the country more than 300,000 jobs. Yet, the evidence is overwhelming. Canada could be affected more this time around. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was preparing the country for a possible recession in a speech last week when his British counterpart, David Cameron, addressed parliament.

Liberal candidate Lou Rinaldi can parade out his party’s record. Progressive Conservative Rob Milligan can do the same, only he will repeat the campaign literature delivered to him from Toronto. The NDP can say whatever it wants because there is little chance it will be in power and the Green Party is so right wing when it comes to economic issues, it would make the Tories blush.

But the past does not do Northumberland voters much good. Whatever occurred will be nothing compared to a second recession, especially when the local economy has barely begun to recover.

For many of those who were hit hard the last time around, unemployment has not bounced back to pre-2008 levels. So, it would mean even more people without jobs locally. For all the good news about new ventures opening, there was an equal number who closed their doors.

For those who did get jobs, there was a significant shift in the workforce, as hiring occurred mainly in the retail and service sectors – one famous for hiring part-time labour with minimum wage without benefits or long-term commitment. These are not the manufacturing jobs with high paying wages and security once enjoyed around the county.

Governments will also use the situation as an excuse to slash services. We have seen the types of cuts the Liberals make over the last two terms. And, we can easily recall the damage done to all kinds of services when former Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris was in power.

Fortunately, Northumberland has enjoyed its share of largess from government coffers with infrastructure programs. But these only serve a small part of the local economy, mainly the construction industry. It does not ensure farmers survive or workers in the manufacturing industries will be assured jobs.

Local candidates say nothing about developing the creative economy, those people who work alone or at  home and do things like create software, run online businesses, work in arts and crafts, and so forth.

Beyond all this are the thousands of seniors living on fixed incomes. They will lose value in their pensions and investments and end up struggling to survive. Nobody says how these retirees will make do.

Regardless, candidates need to show voters what they will do, not what they have done. Northumberland County needs a vision, not a history lesson.

First appeared: Sept. 28, 2011

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