I suppose I have become somewhat obsessed with Ontario’s economy and its performance but here I go again with a few comparisons. Ontario is strategically located on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway adjacent to the huge population of the US northeast. Its neighbours are trade partners and markets as well as economic competitors. How does Ontario stack up to its immediate American and Canadian neighbors – namely, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and then Manitoba and Quebec?
With 13.6 million people, Ontario has the second largest population after New York State, which has 19.7 million people but the fourth largest economy coming behind New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. As a result, Ontario’s per capita GDP is lower than one might expect edging out Michigan, Manitoba and Quebec but behind New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio. (See Figure 1) When it comes real per capita GDP growth, Ontario and Michigan not surprisingly have been the worst performers. (See Figure 2) Both are highly dependent on automobile manufacturing and this sector was hit hard during the last decade. Between 2000 and 2013, real per capita GDP grew the most in Manitoba and New York State at 19 percent each. Next came Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Quebec at 12, 11 and 10 percent respectively. At the bottom came Ohio, Ontario and Michigan at 7, 5 and -3 percent respectively.
When it comes to these economic performance indicators, relative to its neighbors in what has become a highly integrated and competitive North American economy, Ontario has delivered a mixed performance. Despite having the second largest population of its immediate neighbors, Ontario has only the fourth largest economy and sixth highest per capita output. Moreover, its per capita output growth was the second lowest of this comparison only ahead of Michigan.
I suppose that could be a good marketing slogan for the government economic development people at Queen's Park: Ontario-at least we are doing better than Michigan.
Data Sources for Figures 1&2: Statistics Canada, US Bureau of Economic Analysis, US Census Bureau. US PPP$ conversion index from IMF World Economic Outlook Database.