PETERBOROUGH – Job numbers are driving the agenda for many voters in Peterborough during this provincial election campaign.
The unemployment rate in the riding is the highest in Ontario at 11.1% and it resonates throughout the city as well as surrounding rural areas.
Jim Pollard and his family moved from Minden, Ontario to Peterborough for a new job last fall. He was laid off eight months later and is now having a hard time finding new opportunities.
“I’m getting a sense it’s almost hopeless to tell you the truth,” he said. “I think the good paying jobs are few and far between and I also think they’re leaving town.”
EPC Peterborough provides employment counselling for those looking for work and, according to staff, the resource centre is always busy with clients.
“There are some people who are really frustrated,” said counsellor Cayley Rice, “(There are) some people who are more optimistic. It all depends on where they are on the job search process.”
Each of the main party leaders have made stops in the riding to tout their party agendas.
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak held a town hall meeting on May 26 to discuss his “Million Jobs Plan” with a small group of people at a downtown hotel.
While avoiding a few hecklers raising issues with party plans to cut public sector jobs, Hudak catered to one of the sectors hardest hit it in the area. “We’ll help create 200,000 new jobs in the skilled trades,” he said.
On May 30, Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne visited Bridgenorth and furthered the argument against eliminating public service positions.
“When Tim Hudak says he’ll cut 100,000 jobs in the public service, it means jobs here,” she said. “Peterborough would be affected by those job cuts.”
A couple of weeks earlier, NDP leader Andrea Horwath stopped by a local Peterborough cafe to announce the party’s Open Schools plan.
Peterborough is considered to be the riding to watch on election night, based on its recent history. It has voted in favour of the winning party in each of the last 7 general elections in Ontario.
“We kind of sit a little bit in the past, culturally,” said Dr. David Sheinin, history professor at Trent University. “That also may reflect why we’re fairly predictable, fairly normal, fairly average as far as voting patterns are concerned.”
There’s no predicting which way Peterborough may swing in 2014. Especially when speaking to those out of work and looking for new hope.
“I personally have no faith in any of the leaders to be honest,” said Jim Pollard, “To me, there are all the same animal. They just wear different coloured sweaters.”
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