Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says he believes the math in his Million Jobs Plan – even after a half-dozen economists said he made a basic arithmetic mistake that inflated the number of projected jobs his proposed policies would create.
The economists say Mr. Hudak counted some jobs as many as eight times. They say he is confusing person years of employment – how many people would have work for a single year – with permanent jobs.
But during a meeting with The Globe and Mail editorial board on Thursday, Mr. Hudak, who has a masters degree in economics, insisted his numbers were sound. He portrayed the error as a matter of opinion.
"I do – and I've thought long and hard about this," he said, when asked if he stood behind his math. "You could line up all the economists in Canada head to toe, and they still would never reach a conclusion. There is going to be a debate, no doubt, about the scope."
A PC-commissioned report from the Conference Board of Canada modelled the effect of corporate tax cuts on job creation. Economists, including former officials from the federal department of finance, said that the Conference Board's model shows Mr. Hudak's proposed 3.5 per cent corporate tax cut would create between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs over eight years.
But Mr. Hudak's plan puts the number at about 120,000. The economists said this is person years of employment – not permanent jobs. By adding up all the person years of employment, the economists said, Mr. Hudak is counting some jobs two, three and as many as eight times.
In his meeting with The Globe, Mr. Hudak continued to repeat the error, insisting the Conference Board report showed his proposals would create 120,000 jobs.
Asked why he apprently thought person years of employment and permanent jobs were the same thing, when economists say otherwise, Mr. Hudak dodged the question.
"Because I believe that a permanent reduction in the [corporate income tax] creates permanent jobs," he said.
Asked if he was counting some jobs eight times, he replied: "No. I would say I disagree."
The economists also questioned the totals the Tories are expecting from some of their other policies.
Rumblings about Mr. Hudak's mistake began among economists shortly after he released his full Million Jobs Plan two weeks ago. Over the past few days, several independent economists published analyses online pointing out the problem. They include Scott Clark, Peter DeVries and Paul Boothe, who have all held high-level jobs in the federal finance department. The economists all concluded Mr. Hudak had mistakenly inflated his job numbers by conflating person-years and jobs.
Economist Mike Moffatt of Western University expressed a certain regret at Mr. Hudak's error. In an op-ed for Canadian Business, he said parties should be encouraged to release detailed plans and economic analyses to back up their policy platforms, and such a mistake hinders that.
"While the policies of the Million Jobs Plan may be economically beneficial, the Tory job numbers are an absolute disaster," he wrote. "The entire plan needs to be redrafted, as the party made an inexcusable and elementary mistake in mathematics."
The Liberals on Thursday challenged Mr. Hudak to find an independent economist who agrees with him.
Leader Kathleen Wynne called Mr. Hudak's plan "a complete and utter fiction."
"This isn't a difference in interpretation. This is a fact. The Million Jobs plan is a fantasy," she said at a college in Scarborough. "Those jobs are not real."