COMMENTARY: How a strong economy — and strong public sector — may give the Liberals an edge

5 economic issues to watch for this campaign
WATCH: During the 40-day federal election campaign, leaders will cover a lot of issues as they attempt to win over Canadians — the economy being a big one. Here are five economic issues we’ll likely hear about.

Canada’s public sector offers better wages, better benefits and greater job security than the private sector.

Those were the three takeaways I had last year at this time when interviewing Global News features writer Jane Gerster. And it’s what started me thinking about how the Canadian economy looks much different to those of us working in the private sector compared to the public.

It may also help us understand why public-sector employees are more likely to vote for the incumbents in this election.

READ MORE: Public vs. private sector — Which pays more? (Oct. 31, 2018)

People who feel more economically secure tend to resist the idea of voting for change. This past weekend, I took another look at Gerster’s Oct. 31, 2018, report, and these words leapt off the page:

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“’Most people say a good job is a good salary,’ Yussuff says, but, he notes, there is a ‘broader acceptance’ now that people get sick and grow old, so they’re looking for the added security of a benefits package and a pension to retire on — not just a dollar figure.”

Gerster was quoting the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan Yussuff. Canada’s public-sector unions are not shy about where they stand politically and how they want their members to vote on Oct. 21.

Recently, one of Canada’s largest unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, made its feelings crystal clear in its Labour Day message: “Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives cannot be trusted to support Canada’s workers. … Scheer is going to pick up where Harper left off. He’ll come after pensions, benefits and many other hard-fought gains.”

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It’s worth noting that in the press release from the huge Canadian public-sector union, the most sacred item mentioned is pensions, and there is a good reason for that. One might as well call the barrier that separates private-sector Canada from public-sector Canada the “Pension Wall.”

Frederick Vettese, the author of Retirement Income for Life, says: “It is a sad fact that only 20 per cent of private-sector workers are covered by pension plans in their workplace. In stark contrast, nearly 100 per cent of public-sector workers are covered. Of course, none of this is news; pension envy among private-sector workers is as Canadian as hockey and Timbits.”

READ MORE: New study compares your Canada Pension Plan to private or public options (June 5, 2018)

I cannot predict the outcome of the Oct. 21 election based on the views of Canada’s public-sector employees. But I can tell you that in an economy that is healthy by G7 standards, and with the public sector employing one in every five Canadians — many of them living in densely populated regions where the economy is particularly strong — the incumbent government has an advantage in relatively satisfied public-sector employees.

I think there are many signs pointing to the Liberals being re-elected on Oct. 21. Among those signs is the economic security being enjoyed by Canada’s public sector.

Charles Adler hosts Charles Adler Tonight on Global News Radio stations.

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