Despite a glowing job report that Canada’s economy added 81,100 new jobs in August, experts say Justin Trudeau’s Liberals could have a hard time translating the positive headlines into electoral success this October as many voters continue to feel anxious about their finances.
In its last major economic update before a federal election, Statistics Canada said the national unemployment rate held steady at 5.7 per cent — near a four-decade low — and wages for permanent employees increased 3.8 per cent year-over-year.
The report found new positions were largely driven by part-time jobs in the services sector and 20,500 more people were working in educational services in August, according to Statistics Canada. Industries like finance, insurance and real estate saw increases of 22,400, while the professional and technical services sector saw gains of 16,800 jobs.
Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, said although the positive numbers are welcome news to the Liberals, there is a more pervasive negative feeling among Canadians about the economy that poses a challenge for Trudeau’s team.
“Any government going into an election wants to have positive economic news,” he said. “The problem though is people aren’t feeling like things are getting better. There’s a major disconnect.”
For many, a positive economic outlook is often measured not just by employment but whether they can afford a house, or enroll their kids in extracurricular activities, Bricker said.
WATCH: Canada sees jobs surge in August with 81K new positions
“It’s a very careful balancing act of trying to convince people that things are better than they may be feeling,” he said.
The negative outlook on the economy was underscored in an Ipsos poll released Thursday that found a majority of Canadians think that society is “broken” and the economy is rigged for the rich and powerful.
Sixty-one per cent of Canadian respondents agreed traditional political parties don’t care about people like them — an increase of five points over polling done in 2016, the first year of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s mandate.
Meanwhile, a poll from Angus Reid in the spring found four-in-10 Canadians say they expect the economy to worsen over the coming year. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, nearly half of each province’s residents believe their standard of living has worsened in the last year.
“The statistics are sunnier than the mood,” Bricker said.
The Liberals are locked in a tight race against Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, who are campaigning under the slogan: “It’s time for you to get ahead.”
Tim Powers, a conservative strategist and vice-chairman of Summa Strategies, said the Tories believe their path to victory is keying in on the feelings of economic angst as Stephen Harper’s campaign did in 2005.
“The numbers are great but if you don’t feel a personal difference it doesn’t matter what Statistics Canada tells you,” he said. “If your wallet is feeling less, and the pressure is feeling more, voters won’t give a tinkers darn about four-year unemployment lows.”
Powers said Liberals will try to make Trudeau appear more connected with the average voter and focus on pocketbook issues, like cutting cell phone and internet bills. They will also continue to tout their tax rate cuts on incomes between about $45,000 and $90,000 and the income-tested Canada child benefit.
Trudeau’s Twitter account referenced the positive jobs report Friday saying that “over one million new jobs” have been created since November 2015.
“There’s more work to do – we’ll continue investing in Canadians to grow our economy, create even more jobs, and keep moving forward together,” Trudeau said.
WATCH (Sept. 5, 2019): Polls says Liberals could lose B.C. seats in federal election
Scheer’s camp has vowed to focus the impending campaign on economic concerns, including the cost of living and affordability. They’ve laid out several proposals they say will help families that include scrapping the federal carbon tax, removing the GST from home heating costs, and making parental benefits tax-free.
The NDP and the Green Party, have also made the economy anxieties a priority, but have also linked it climate change. The NDP’s platform calls for $15 billion of federal investments in environmental initiatives to curb climate change that they say would create 300,000 jobs.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May has released a detailed plan to help transition fossil fuel workers move to jobs in the renewable energy sector, which includes skills retraining programs and massive cleanup projects designed to create employment.
Under Canada’s laws, an election must be called by Sept.15. Canadians head to the polls on Oct 21.