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With unemployment rising and the economy slowing, the Ontario government has announced a $1.4 billion, anti-recession package it hopes will create 20,000 jobs.

Ontario, which lost 93,000 jobs in the past year, can expect to lose another 20,000 over the next six months, says Floyd Laughrin, provincial treasurer. Laughrin says 20,000 temporary jobs will be created by his plan.

Along with his announced plan to spend $700 million on capital works projects, repairing such public facilities as roads, he hopes municipalities and school boards will add $300 million of their own for joint projects.

Another $41 million has already been allocated to northern Ontario.

Laughrin says he also will stimulate the economy through a $500 million consumer tax break by not adding the 8 percent provincial sales tax on top of the coming national goods and services tax. There will be a further tax break of $44 million for lower-income Ontarians and $160 million in tax breaks for businesses investing in pollution-control equipment.

While national unemployment is up in Canada, and some regions, like Ontario and Quebec, have been hard hit, others, like Alberta and British Columbia, are seeing modest job growth.

Ontario's November unemployment rate jumped to 7.5 percent from 5.2 percent at this time last year. In the past year, Ontario has lost 106,000 manufacturing jobs, and construction employment is down by 54,000 or 15 percent from last year.

The province's job loss has been accelerating, with 43,000 jobs lost in the past month alone.

While Toronto's unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, is below both the provincial and 9.1 percent national figure, it is a sharp rise from last year's 4 percent.

In addition, welfare rolls in the metro area are up 75 percent over last year. There are now almost 100,000 people receiving assistance compared with 57,500 last year.

Zanana Akande, Ontario social services minister, has pledged $1 million to ease the pressure on food banks, which have seen an unprecedented rise in usage.

Among Canadian cities, according to the Statistics Canada report, the lowest unemployment rate is Regina's 5.5 percent. Montreal's 11.7 percent is the highest, with Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver coming in at between 7.1 and 8.6 percent.

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