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PCs, NDP spar over StatsCan job numbers

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The Progressive Conservatives and governing NDP launched a fight over numbers today with the release of Statistics Canada's labour force characteristics report.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says the numbers, when compared over a 12-month period, show the province has the highest inflation rate in the country at 2.4 per cent, and double the national average.

He held a news conference today to show that since the governing NDP hiked the provincial sales tax by one point July 1 last year, Manitoba has also lost more jobs than any non-Atlantic province, shedding five thousand positions.

Pallister said only Newfoundland saw a bigger drop in the rate of employment.

He also said Manitoba’s average year-over-year growth in weekly earnings was the second smallest of any province at 1.23 per cent. The national average is 1.97 per cent.

"I’m making the case the PST is doing damage," Pallister said. "I’m giving you the best numbers I can get to do a fair comparison over a longer period of time so you can actually see the difference between our performance stacked up against other provinces."

Within minutes of Pallister’s news conference ending, the NDP emailed out a statement essentially accusing Pallister of cherry-picking his numbers.

"This week, the Opposition alleged that Manitoba has the worst performing economy since the introduction of the PST. They are wrong," it said.

The NDP say according to Statistics Canada, since July 1 last year, Manitoba’s inflation rate has increased 1.5 per cent, lowest of all provinces and below Canada’s increase of 1.8 per cent.

It also says that according to Statistics Canada, since last July 1, weekly earnings in Manitoba have increased 3.2 per cent, the fourth best of all provinces and better than the national average of 2.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada, in today’s report, said there were nearly 1,000 more people working in Manitoba in May than in the previous month.

The agency also said that while the Manitoba economy shed roughly 2,000 part-time positions last month, those losses were more than offset by the creation of about 3,000 new full-time jobs.

The net employment gain, coupled with another 1,700 workers dropping out of the labour force, drove down the provincial unemployment rate to 5.5 per cent from 5.9 per cent in April.

The Statistics Canada data also shows that while the employment picture improved from April to May, there were still 2,300 fewer people working in the province last month than in May of 2013. And 500 of those losses were full-time workers.

Pallister was in court this week to argue the process in which the NDP brought in the tax hike violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in that it nixed a referendum requirement as outlined in the 1995 Taxpayer Protection Act. The act was brought in under the Tory government of Gary Filmon. A decision is pending.

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