The debate over the Ontario PC “Million Jobs” platform has certainly gone ballistic over the last few days and having posted on the subject in January when the plan was first announced I certainly think its worth another post. When the “Million Jobs” plan was first mentioned in January, my response was to look at employment growth over the long term to see how plausible 125,000 jobs a year was as an outcome.
As I pointed out in that post, over the period 1976 to 2013, annual change in employment (an estimate of jobs created or lost) ranged from a high of 187,350 (in 1988) to a low of -177,692 (in 1991) with annual average employment growth over the entire 1976 to 2013 at 84,842 jobs. I think that an Ontario economy creating 125,000 jobs a year would definitely be a higher end economic performance more characteristic of a boom. Indeed, the period from 1995 to 2003 – the Harris/Eves era certainly saw average annual employment growth above 125,000 per year. As I concluded, perhaps Mr. Hudak was “aiming for a boom”. As Mike Veall has suggested, the economy may well create one million jobs anyway in spite of whoever may be elected premier.
The debate over the calculations and how they were done is an important one but it misses the real point of the debate. After all, what Mr. Hudak has done is provide an “estimate” of how many jobs his government might create. It is not a very good estimate and there are better methodologies that could have been used but anyone who has had children go through Ontario’s public school system knows that the math curriculum in Ontario is big on “estimating”. All Tim Hudak needs to do to end the bloodletting on this issue is simply say the numbers were an “estimate” and challenge the other parties to produce a better one. Though I am an academic and disappointed at the methodology used, this is an election campaign.
The real criticism of Tim Hudak’s platform should actually be that the claim that his government can help create “One Million Jobs” is flawed because in the market economic platform advocated by Mr. Hudak, governments do not create jobs, they simply provide an environment to help spur on private sector economic growth and job creation. A conservative platform that sets out government as committed to creating a certain number of jobs is at best oddly out of place with traditional conservative economic philosophy. It was even more amusing to have the announcement of One Million Jobs juxtaposed with 100,000 public sector job cuts which leaves you with (an estimate of ) net job creation of only 900,000.
I suppose the real policy question is whether the policies advocated by Mr. Hudak would create more jobs in the Ontario economy than might otherwise be the case. In other words, would Tim Hudak’s economic policies provide an environment more conducive to private sector job creation than those advocated either by Kathleen Wynne or Andrea Horwath. I think this is the question that voters should be asking themselves and this is framework within which the Ontario PCs should be selling their platform. The other important question is why the Ontario PCs are not able to respond to this issue in a manner that both disarms it and allows them to go on the offensive?