Tim Hudak’s Million Jobs Plan, and other Fairy Dust

I, quite obviously, have a bias when it comes to my opinions. We all do, and if anyone tells you that they don’t, they’re lying or delusional. It’s part of human nature to lack true impartiality. In fact, to be truly neutral in our positions and opinions would mean we were most likely psychotic. So, I promise that I will try and refrain from bias, which really means I will do everything in my power to spread disdain evenly across all party platforms. With that disclaimer out of the way, I figured it was high time that I dust off this old blog and jump into the fray of the current provincial election.

Not that we badly needed another election, but it seems as though, when we least need one, someone deems that to be the exact time that we should have one. Elections are divisive, costly and disruptive, all reasons why they shouldn’t be called lightly. So, with the opposition parties decrying the brink of financial ruin on which the province apparently is teetering under the negligent, nay criminal, leadership of the Kathleen Wynne Liberals, the ideas and policies behind those who are vying for control of the province should be carefully scrutinized.

Enter Tim Hudak of the Progressive Conservative Party. Hudak has been touting his “Million Jobs Plan,” three words that we are now hearing so often throughout the average day as to drive a strong individual properly insane. Simply, or not so simply, Hudak is claiming to have the answer that will send some million Ontarians back to work, something he not only claims Wynne’s Liberals can’t do, but will likely do the opposite of if re-elected. So, where are these million jobs coming from? How is Hudak claiming he will create them? Are there actually a million Ontarians out of work? And, can any of this work?

A million new jobs sounds pretty impressive. Even if you consider that the million jobs that Tim Hudak claims he can create will be created over the course of eight years, a span of time more than twice as long as the average government term, it’s still impressive. It’s been 11 years since Ontario has seen 125,000 jobs or more created in one year, nor have have there been eight consecutive years of 125k+ job growth since the year I was born, 1976. But, that’s precisely what Tim Hudak is saying his government would be able to do. Arrogance, foolishness or impressive competence? Only time could tell. In the meantime, we can look at what’s under the hood of this plan and see if it has the makings of the 125,000 job per year miracle it is being sold as, and foretell a little of that possible future.

To begin with, there is some question that there are actually one million Ontarians out of work. Statistics Canada unemployment figures for Ontario don’t seem to support this number, and we’re not entirely sure where the figures are drawn from. But, it seems entirely plausible that there are a million Ontarians out of work who are either claiming unemployment benefits, or not claiming benefits and simply giving up on a fruitless search for work. So, if we assume that the number is correct, despite lacking any tangible evidence, we can certainly see the demand fuelling Hudak’s plan.

The first line in the accounting of the plan is perhaps the most troubling. Tim Hudak claims that 523,000 jobs are projected to be created over those eight years based on a historical average of job growth over the last decade. This means that more than half of the jobs Tim Hudak’s plan will take credit for creating will happen if the policies and practices of the last ten years, the status quo, are simply continued. My first problem with that is simply that Tim Hudak is really positioning a 477,000 Job Plan as something far sexier than it is by labelling it a Million Jobs Plan and taking credit for work that isn’t even his. That doesn’t seem particularly fair, does it? I mean, Kathleen Wynne could just as easily say that she is going to create 523,000 jobs over the next eight years, nearly ten percent more than Tim Hudak, and she wouldn’t have to lift a finger in order to deliver on that promise. At least, not by Tim Hudak’s accounting.

But, it also isn’t logical. To begin with, those jobs are going to be created by maintaining the status quo, which is precisely opposite of what a change of governing party entails. Tim Hudak is campaigning on changing the way government does business in the province of Ontario. That means the status quo will change. Doesn’t that seriously call into question whether those 523,000 jobs will ever materialize? Ignoring the fact that it isn’t fair to take credit for them in the first place, if those jobs aren’t delivered, more than half of Tim Hudak’s plan fails.

I’m also not enough of a mathematician to understand how the plan relies on a certain level of average annual job growth, while unemployment in Ontario has also risen over the last ten years. Sure, we’re talking about less than a percent, but doesn’t more people unemployed mean more people looking for work? Shouldn’t more jobs each year mean fewer people out of work? I’m sure it’s all tied to population growth and so on. I just would have expected to see more mention of the unemployment rate made in this plan, given the lofty expectations it gives for returning people to the work force.

The rest of the plan gets even more murky. Tim Hudak’s plan calls for reductions in corporate income tax rates, which would account for about a quarter of the remaining jobs in the plan. This, despite historical data showing that companies receiving income tax cuts from the Federal Government did not, in fact, invest that money in job creation. Why, then, does Hudak think that cuts at the provincial level will bring a dramatically different result?

Reducing the personal income tax rate after the budget is balanced will somehow create another big chunk of jobs. How? No idea. Apparently lower income tax for people who are working will mean more work for those who aren’t. Unless the idea is that this will drive up consumer behaviour, which will stimulate job growth, both conclusions that should be measured with some skepticism, I can’t figure it out.

Cutting regulations and “eco-fees” on business would somehow create another big bunch of jobs. Again, I’m not really sure how. Just as in the case of income tax rate reductions at the corporate level, the plan is assuming that businesses will not simply pocket the increased profits, and instead invest it in their workforce. I am nothing if not cynical about the motives and actions of corporations, so I’m leaning towards thinking they’ll just pocket the cash.

Finally, there will be a cut of 100,000 public sector jobs. On the face of it, this will quite plainly be putting people out of work, so I don’t know how firing people equates hiring people. If you measure it against the nearly same number of jobs Tim Hudak plans to create by putting the province in charge of rail and transit in the Greater Toronto Area and expanding on infrastructure in the GTO, it looks contradictory; Tim Hudak will eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs, and then create another 96,000 public sector jobs. So, really, isn’t he actually saying he’ll just cut 4000 public sector positions?

Again, I’m not a mathematician.

Nor am I an economist.

Though I’m neither of those things, I like to think I have enough of a brain stem to look past the convenient and catchy sloganeering of Tim Hudak’s Million Jobs Plan to the guts of the matter, and the guts don’t seem to make a lot of sense. Tim Hudak is taking credit for jobs that will be created by a status quo that won’t be maintained by virtue of his election, a lot of jobs, and then taking on a remainder that will come from contradictory moves, or moves that seem more like wishful thinking than calculable action. Does it add up to a million? It definitely doesn’t look like it will. And, given Tim Hudak’s pedigree as a Mike Harris Progressive Conservative, I would be more worried about where the government will find ways to reduce the size and scope of government and balance the budget. The shadow of the Harris era still looms large over this province, and as an individual ashamed to admit that I voted for that particular brand of evil (out of youthful inexperience, to defend my fault,) I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to vote for another of his ilk. It would take a lot more than a slogan and some questionable accounting.

Unfortunately, that seems to be all Tim Hudak is offering.

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