Amazingly the the government shutdown in the U.S. which began October 1, 2013 continues despite some serious efforts at negotiating an end to it, the restoration of services and a short term six week respite on the debt ceiling deadline which in its absence will be breached in less than a week. Over the past couple of days The President, and key Democratic party politicians have been meeting with Republicans in an effort to hammer out an acceptable deal that will end the shutdown, provide a relatively short term respite from the debt ceiling deadline and restore some degree of sanity to Washington politics. The difficult part will be in agreeing to the length of the debt ceiling pact. The house Republicans want it to be short but both President Obama and the Democratic party leadership and some Senate Republicans are trying to hammer out a much longer deal of at least a year. Final details on the deal are still being negotiated but the deal might involve some compromises on the President’s side regarding future adjustments in small aspects of the Affordable Care Act that could be seen as necessary fine tuning, longer term adjustments in medicaid and medicare as part of a general attempt to provide for better budget balance in future years . The Republicans however have lost the battle of public opinion by prolonging the shutdown and also by refusing to accept that Obama care is now operational and won’t be altered in fundamental ways for the forseeable future as opposed to adustments that are a necessary part of good governance.
We shall see what the weekend brings and hopefully the government will reopen its doors and a debt ceiling deal will be reached as cooler and more pragmatic heads prevail.
On the cultural front Canadians, literary buffs, writers and readers everywhere are thrilled to learn that Canadian writer Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for literature for 2013. She is the first Canadian if we don’t count Saul Bellow who moved to Chicago from Montreal as a young boy and only the thirteenth woman to win the prestigious prize. Alice Munro’s works are deeply revealing and drawn from acute observation of the lives of her fellows mostly in small town and rural Ontario. She has been compared to Chekhov and described as “the master of the short story” which is high praise indeed. Canadians who do read a lot and not just about hockey or hunting or winter and mostly live in large cities are very pleased. Our writers and creative people who often work for years without proper reward or recognition in a culture that sometimes is reluctant to recognize its own talented people can take heart from this award.
Finally Stats Canada released its September jobs report today. Unemployment fell to 6.9 % in September. but unfortunately this was almost entirely due to a fall in the participation rate as the number of people who dropped out of the labour market increased. This was also true in Quebec where unemployment fell from 7.9 % to 7.6 %.
Unemployment by province
B.C. 6.7 %
Participation rate by province
Newf. 59.9 %
The much lower participation rates in the Atlantic provinces and even to an extent in Ontario and Québec compared to the high rates in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan reflect both demographic factors and the larger number of discouraged workers in those provinces because of prolonged elevated unemployment.
All data courtesy of Statistics Canada