Kijiji economics is bad news

Did you know you can’t believe everything you read online?
If so, then at least you are one step ahead of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
We learned last week that to save a few bucks, the Harper government has been using the help wanted ads on www.kijiji.ca to build our national skilled jobs and employment strategy.
And to absolutely no one’s surprise, it’s been a complete and utter disaster.
This is what is to be expected when a government fires or eliminates half of the staff at the organization responsible for collecting and analyzing employment statistics for Canadians and their government.
They end up hiring someone in the private sector for a whack of money to do web searches of classified ads and provide data for a multi-billion-dollar national jobs program.
It would be comical if billions of our tax dollars weren’t being wasted on fixing a non-existent problem caused by bad data.
The story behind this costly and embarrassing fiasco dates back to 2012, when the Harper Conservatives took an axe to Statistics Canada.
First, they did away with the mandatory long-form census that provided vital information and statistics to Canadian citizens, businesses, and governments about our country and the people who live in it.
At the same time, the Harper government also issued lay-off or termination notices to more than half of the 5,000 employees at Statistics Canada while paying extra to contract out their work out to the private sector.
Fast forward to this spring. Last month, the Department of Finance released a 54-page document entitled “Jobs Report: The State of the Canadian Labour Market,” which concluded that Canada suffered from a skilled labour shortage, and that the number of help wanted and job postings were up and rising across Canada.
The Conservatives used this report as evidence for the creation of their multi-billion-dollar Canada Job Grant program and for expanding the much-abused Temporary Foreign Worker program.
But what if there was no national glut of vacancies or skilled labour shortage? Thankfully, we have a Parliamentary Budget Officer to keep an eye on these sorts of things.
In his own report last week entitled “Labour Market Assessment 2014,” Canada’s new PBO, Jean-Denis Fréchette, found there is no shortage of skilled workers in Canada, which, of course, contradicts the findings of the Conservative government’s own report from a month earlier.
What could cause such a gap in the findings of the two reports? We now know the answer is that Department of Finance was using bad data.
It seems the data provided to the Department of Finance by those high-priced consultants, from a company named Wanted Analytics, essentially was bunk.
As part of its data collection process, Wanted Analytics uses software to scan online job sites and create a database of all the available jobs, and included in that group were job postings found on www.kijiji.ca
Unfortunately for Wanted Analytics and the Department of Finance, it seems there are a lot of fake ads on the Internet. In fact, there are so many bad postings on www.kijiji.ca alone that the entire nationwide trend in help wanted postings changes–a lot–when data from that site is removed from the pool.
When that bad data is removed, Canada goes from having an excess of jobs and a shortage of skilled workers to having essentially a balanced labour market in an under-performing economy.
Whoops!
Despite taking a pounding from New Democrats all week in Question Period, it’s not clear if the Harper government plans to change the way they collect their data, and they won’t say if they will revamp their job skills programs or crack down on companies that keep abusing the Temporary Foreign Workers program because of this fictional “skilled labour shortage.”
This is exactly the kind of fiasco that is to be expected when a reckless government fires or eliminates half of the public service staff at the organization responsible for collecting and analyzing employment statistics.
We end up with second-rate research and bad data, which costs taxpayers billions upon billions of dollars that is wasted on costly programs to solve non-existent problems.
New Democrats think you deserve better–better use of your tax dollars, better research and data, and better results for you and your family.

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