Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is trying to show his "Million Jobs Plan" is more than a snappy slogan, casting himself as the serious man to lead Ontario out of the economic doldrums.
The Tory Leader on Tuesday released detailed estimates on how many jobs each of his proposed policies would create, as well as some of the economic metrics behind his big promise. And he vowed that driving down unemployment would be his paramount concern as premier.
"Truly making jobs a priority means putting no other goal ahead," he told a largely partisan lunch crowd at Ottawa's Château Laurier. "On issue after issue, we in the PC Party will choose jobs while the … Liberals always seem to decide that they see something else as more important."
The province's sluggish economy is the central issue in the June 12 election, with Mr. Hudak's tax-cutting, government-shrinking plan duelling with Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne's interventionist ideology.
Mr. Hudak's move Tuesday was meant to win that fight and deflect criticisms he simply picked an arbitrary figure. Mr. Hudak's critics, and some economists, contend no provincial government has the ability to guarantee such a specific level of job creation.
Mr. Hudak's plan assumes more than half the million jobs would be created anyway if the government did nothing and economic conditions remained relatively unchanged from the previous decade. The other half-million, he says, would come from cutting corporate taxes from 11.5 to 8 per cent, slashing personal income tax rates by 10 per cent, joining the New West free-trade agreement with the Western provinces and battling gridlock in the Greater Toronto Area, among other policies.
He also provided two PC-commissioned economic analyses to show his numbers add up. One by the Conference Board of Canada looked at the economic stimulus effect of his proposed tax cuts. The other, by economist Benjamin Zycher of the conservative Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, analyzed the effects of his other proposals.
The Liberals tried to discredit Mr. Zycher by pointing to AEI's right-wing bias, as well as interviews in which he appeared to question to what extent climate change is caused by human activity.
"With a platform signed off on by a controversial … consultant, Tim Hudak confirmed today that he'll pick up where Mike Harris left off, plunging Ontario back into recession by making reckless cuts," Grit campaign spokeswoman Rebecca MacKenzie wrote in an e-mail.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, meanwhile, said Mr. Hudak's plan to lay off 100,000 public-sector workers would hurt the economy and impede job creation.
"He's talking about the million jobs he's going to create in one scenario and in the next scenario he's talking about the 100,000 families he's going to kick to the curb," she said while mainstreeting in Scarborough.
Economist Jack Mintz said the PC job-creation estimates on corporate tax cuts "wouldn't be far off," but noted that economists have to be careful when attaching hard employment numbers to policy ideas.
"I always get a little nervous [doing that]. I've done it myself, but only because it helps the public understand it," he said in an interview.
Some of Mr. Hudak's proposed policies will probably create jobs over time, Mr. Mintz said, but there are other factors at play, including the influence of the U.S. economy and the province's need to pay down its deficit. And it's possible that some of the estimated new jobs are counted more than once because their creation could be attributed to more than one policy.
"One of the problems of evaluating policy by policy, sometimes there are interaction effects that you have to take into account," he said.
But the Tory Leader argued he had used conservative enough estimates of economic growth that his plan would be borne out.
"None of that model is based on glowing assumptions," he told reporters. "None of that model is crossing our fingers and clicking our heels together and hoping for some miracle."