New federal housing policy = good jobs, good investment, good homes

Earlier this week, CIBC World Markets one of Canada’s biggest bankers delivered an important assessment of the Canadian jobs market over the past decade.

The CIBC verdict: While employment growth has been reasonably strong over the past decade, the changing nature of the economy means that the new jobs haven’t been very good.

The report is titled “Quantity: Yes, Quality: Not Yet” and makes for interesting reading.

In the words of CIBC: more of the same poor quality jobs there is a glimmer of hope. With the private real estate market expected to cool in the coming months, and with good quality construction jobs at risk, the federal Conservatives have a policy option. something that the federal Liberal government promised during their 12 years in office but never delivered as one way of ensuring good quality jobs in our economy.

“Any analysis of the number of new jobs created in the economy should be complemented by a measure of their quality. And the relatively weak income growth, despite strong employment performance, reflects a decline in the quality of employment in Canada since the beginning of the decade. Focusing only on part-time vs. full-time distribution as a proxy for employment quality can be misleading. After all, not all full-time jobs are created equal. Some of them are low-paying and unstable jobs.”

CIBC offers an equally gloomy view of the future:

“Looking ahead, the likelihood is that employment quality in the coming few quarters will remain low. While a housing market crash is not in the cards, the consensus in the market is that real estate activity will level off soon. So, even if house prices land softly, the impact on the economy in general, and construction jobs in particular, will be far from gentle. Real estate has been an important engine of the recent economic activity, with the number of (high quality) construction jobs rising by 6.1% in 2005. That is almost four times the employment gain seen in the economy as a whole (Chart eight). That momentum will be lost if house prices level off.”

So, while the immediate prospect is not good

They can launch a comprehensive, fully-funded federal housing strategy

The new federal Conservative minority government can kick-start a major new jobs strategy focusing on new affordable housing construction by investing the $1.6 billion in new housing dollars in the NDP budget bill, which was passed by Parliament in June of 2005 but never allocated.

Good jobs for the economy (something that is desperately needed) and good homes for people (something else that is desperately needed).

Sounds like a winner!

* Michael Shapcott, Senior Fellow, Wellesley Central Health Corporation