Remember when elections were about jobs, jobs, jobs?

Given the collapse of the manufacturing sector in Ontario and the trend toward low-wage, temporary jobs that come without prescription drug and dental benefits or pension plans, you would think jobs would be a political lightning rod of an issue.

To date, only one of the federal leaders seeking the ultimate job -- that of Prime Minister -- has ventured to make jobs an issue.

NDP Leader Jack Layton says he wants to renew Canadian manufacturing, investing $8.2 billion over four years to create 40,000 new manufacturing jobs.

Saving manufacturing jobs, and creating new ones, is important. In fact, it's desperately needed. The average earnings of Canadian families in the middle class have been stagnant for an incredible 30 long years. You could argue the middle class in Canada would have completely collapsed if it weren't for two factors: Women are working in larger numbers than ever (because it takes two income earners for middle class families to make it anymore) and everyone but the richest 10% of Canadian families are clocking more hours at work. In fact, families are working, on average, 200 hours more a year compared to just 10 years ago.

Canadians have been pulling out all the stops, doing whatever it takes to keep from falling behind.

But if Canada continues to lose good paying jobs, no amount of extra working hours will cut it for the struggling middle class.

And those families in the bottom 20 percent of the income spectrum -- poor families looking for a way out but often trapped in the cycle of low-wage, temporary work -- will be in even greater trouble.

I know there is a lot of debate about what it means to say 'middle class', but when you ask Canadians how they would identify themselves, most will say they are middle class and it's a notional concept for them. It means a comfortable lifestyle. Not rich, not free and easy, but enough to make ends meet, have a good quality of life and make sure your children have access to good opportunities.

Most Canadians understand that manufacturing jobs are middle-class jobs that help hard-working families own homes and keep up with the rising cost of living.

They talk about this in America all the time. In Canada? Not so much.

It's time that changes, because Canadians are looking for political leadership, not crass politics.

Political leaders who advance concrete, do-able solutions to help keep and grow more middle class jobs will find a receptive audience among Canadian voters.

The question is: Are the other political leaders listening? Or will the next five weeks be mired in puffin poop and other inanities?

-- Trish Hennessy