Labour Day bitter irony for unemployed

When Statistics Canada figures are released later this week, they're expected to show nearly 1.5 million people are out of work across the country. In Edmonton on Monday, the number of people struggling to make ends meet was evident at an annual holiday picnic.

The Alberta Federation of Labour has offered free meals to the city's less fortunate on the September long weekend for the past 21 years. Representatives from the group say the need for the event is as strong as ever.

"We've never gone down in numbers - we are either feeding unemployed, or under-employed or street people," said Nancy Furlong.

"It's a shame that there is a lineup that long in a province like ours. It's absolutely incredible."

Alberta employment minister Thomas Lukaszuk argues good news is on the way, with evidence the province is rebounding from the recession. He says right now 6.3 per cent of Albertans are jobless, which is an improvement from 7.2 per cent this time last year.

"As a matter of fact we are swinging now to a time when we will have labour shortages - those at that barbeque will be sought after by employers," he said.

One unemployed iron worker at Monday's event hopes Lukaszuk is right, after he says a combination of bad decisions and a surgery last year kept him off the job.

The Labour Day picnic was the last place he thought he'd be.

"Ten years ago, no, I didn't think so. I had wheels and everything but my life went a different way," said Clayton McNary., Mon Sept 6 2010
Byline: Jessica Earle

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