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Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak says a million people are out of work in the province. (GEOFF ROBINS/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak says a million people are out of work in the province. (GEOFF ROBINS/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Business Briefing

Ontario's Tim Hudak could use some tutoring from the math teachers he wants to fire Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, May 26, 2014.

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But who's counting?
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives could use some tutoring from the math teachers they’d like to fire.

Indeed, the numbers being thrown around in the election campaign in Canada’s most populous province are outrageous.

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Based on the claims of leader Tim Hudak’s Tories, by my count the Conservatives are now up by 557,488 jobs, and the Liberals down by 626,800 heading into the June 12 vote.

Here’s how that works:

Mr. Hudak has unveiled a “Million Jobs Plan” that pledges to create 1,030,688 positions over eight years, while wiping out the provincial deficit in a couple of years.

Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals don’t have a “Million Jobs Plan.” They have a platform that largely mirrors their last budget proposal, which failed to pass muster among their opponents, sparking the election. One of the key points in that budget is that they would miss their original short-term timeline to balance the books.

For many, the Liberal plan is not laudable. But it is credible. The Tory plan, on the other hand, is fanciful, given the economic growth that would be required to create that number of jobs.

Based on tax cuts, gains from lower energy costs and other measures, Mr. Hudak says he would create 507,488 jobs over eight years.

That excludes the 523,200 he says would be created regardless. Subtract from that the 100,000 public sector jobs he wants to kill, and you’re down to 407,488. Then add in the 150,000 he says the Liberal program would destroy, and you’re up to 557,488.

(Of those 100,000, as The Globe and Mail’s Adrian Morrow has reported, some would be education workers, including teachers. Some jobs would be cut through layoffs, others via attrition and contracting out.)

Factor into all this Mr. Hudak’s claim that there are 1 million people out of work in Ontario. If I’m reading it all correctly, in eight years you’d have full employment, with 30,688 jobs to spare.

The Liberals don’t make such bold projections. According to Mr. Hudak, they’d kill 150,000 private-sector jobs. Add to that his 1 million unemployed, and the Liberals are down by 1.15 million. Then add in the 523,200 Mr. Hudak says would be created anyway, and you're at 626,800.

Mr. Hudak provided with his “Million Jobs Plan” a report by Benjamin Zycher, an American economist who says that “only market competition can tell us the value of extra-hard work.” And who also happens to believe that Michelle Obama’s senior thesis at Princeton was accepted only because she’s African American and that the First Lady is the “product of lifelong affirmative-action coddling.”

(I tell you this because I got to thinking about Mr. Zycher on Friday, when I got an e-mail from the Tories talking about how Ms. Wynne would destroy those 150,000 jobs. I was off Friday – lieu time for having worked our previous holiday Monday – but was checking my work e-mail in off-hours, nonetheless. Which means Mr. Zycher should like me a lot because I’m not a slacker.)

Here’s what the Tory e-mail said: “Kathleen Wynne doesn’t understand that you don’t create jobs by bringing in a new job tax, and you need a job to save for retirement.”

You certainly do. You also need a job just to live day-to-day, and there are now more than 500,000 unemployed Ontarians who’d love to be saving for retirement.

(Public sector workers would also like to be saving for retirement, but Mr. Hudak is waging war against them, notably the aforementioned teachers.)

As for that number of unemployed, the latest ad from the Tories puts it at 1 million. That, according to the Progressive Conservatives, and as reported by my colleague David Parkinson, comes from the province’s participation rate and would include those who have given up looking for work.

By my colleague’s calculations, the number is closer to 750,000, well short of Mr. Hudak’s million.

That, of course, is based on Statistics Canada’s measure of folks who are 15 years of age and up.

Maybe if you lowered that to, say, 12 years of age, you’d get to 1 million. I’ve no idea because I haven’t done the math, but rather pulled that out of thin air.

But if the math doesn’t matter to the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, why should it matter to me?

Bitter pill
Pfizer Inc. is abandoning its quest for AstraZeneca, calling it quits on a hostile move after about a month.

“We continue to believe that our final proposal was compelling and represented full value for AstraZeneca based on the information that was available to us,” Pfizer chief executive officer Ian Read said today as he announced it would not bid for his overseas rival.

“As we said from the start, the pursuit of this transaction was a potential enhancement to our existing strategy. We will continue our focus on the execution of our plans, bringing forth new treatments to meet patients’ needs and remaining responsible stewards of our shareholders’ capital.”

Pfizer’s decision to give up on what would have been a deal worth some $118-billion (U.S.) follows the rejection of an offer by AstraZeneca.

Commodity prices at milestone
Commodity prices in Canada are at a post-recession high, according to new research by the National Bank of Canada.

The western provinces in particular stand to gain from improved profits as global demand picks up and the U.S. economy continues to rebound, National Bank economist Stéfane Marion says in a research note published today, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports..

“We calculate that the Bank of Canada’s commodity price index (BCPI) rose to a post-recession high in [the second quarter] when translated into Canadian dollars,” Mr. Marion said.

The index measures the spot or transaction prices in U.S. dollars of 24 commodities produced in Canada and sold in world markets.

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