Thursday, May 15, 4:45 p.m.: A spokesperson for the PCs called us back minutes after we published to address questions we posed Wednesday. The additional information is in italics below.
TORONTO –Ontarians have “some tough choices to make,” Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak said when he laid out his campaign platform in a Toronto hotel Wednesday.
Here’s a closer look at his choices – and yours.
It’s not really a million jobs
Yes, Tim Hudak calls it the “million jobs plan.” It’s in all his campaign literature and if it were part of a drinking game we’d all have severe liver damage by now.
But the PC leader’s estimates – lofty by many economists’ standards – wouldn’t create a million jobs. They’d create barely half that.
According to his own calculations, close to 523,000 jobs would be created anyway.
Here are the jobs he claims he can create:
200,000 by reducing to 1:1 the ratio of journeymen to apprentices as well as abolishing the College of Trades.
This struck Western University economist Mike Moffatt as a little unlikely.
“If the province starts flooding the market with apprentices … is the market going to be able to hire them all? If the economy’s doing really, really well, like exceptionally well. But if we’re kind of in this slow-to-moderate economic growth, I see a lot of them being unemployed or underemployed,” he said.
119,000 by reducing the corporate income tax by 30%.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But multiple studies – and Statistics Canada figures – indicate businesses often just pocket the extra cash and don’t create new jobs, at all.
96,000 a year by building transit and reducing gridlock.
This might make sense if there were any indication Hudak had the cash to actually build anything new. But his plan doesn’t. (More on this below)
40,000 by lowering energy prices.
Sure, assuming he plans to spend the billions needed to refurbish Darlington and Pickering nuclear plants.
4,400 by developing the Ring of Fire.
A laudable goal, for sure. But as Cliffs’ suspension of its chromite mine late last year shows, it isn’t always a matter of tax levels: That awkward cancellation of a large-scale process was driven by infrastructure issues in the remote area.
1,600 (almost)by opening up trade with other provinces.
$2 billion for transit projects in the GTHA.
Tim Hudak has promised to expand transit in the region with a focus on subways and a commitment to accelerate construction of a relief line in Toronto. But he’s got no money for it: The $2 billion he cites in his platform comes from the province’s existing infrastructure funds, which is right now spent on GO Transit, the Pearson Airport rail link, Union Station, Viva bus rapid transit and ongoing light rail projects. That $2 billion, his party says, would be dedicated to transit projects within the Toronto and Hamilton areas while funding for projects in the rest of the province would come from a transportation fund whose budget and funding source have yet to be announced.
In Depth: Ontario Election 2014
Take over the TTC’s “rail-based transit” (but not streetcars)
Hudak has offered to upload the cost of the TTC’s subways and light rail but not buses or streetcars. It’s not clear what this will cost and where Hudak will get the money, given that he’s put nothing in his platform toward new transit or infrastructure spending – neither the TTC or the PC Party could provide a detailed breakdown of the numbers.
This may not be as sweet a deal for the city as it sounds: Right now, Toronto uses its subways to subsidize money-losing bus service. The Tories say this will be “fiscally-neutral” for the city, in which case the city may put up a fight at the prospect of losing control of much of its transit with no financial benefit. The TTC wouldn’t comment on the proposal.
Contract out lotteries and gaming
Hudak’s plan says the government should be “running schools and hospitals, not casinos and lottery booths.”
The government will, however, still be involved in a “strong regulatory” role.
Redistribute the gas tax by freezing Toronto’s share
Cities across the province depend on money from the gas tax to pay the bills. Hudak has promised to redistribute it to give more to northern Ontario and rural communities. He’s going to do this by freezing the amount Toronto gets and increasing the share of future revenue going rural and northern Ontario.
Combine welfare and disability systems
Hidden under the “cutting red tape” part of Hudak’s plan is a line regarding streamlining the rules on social assistance. What does this mean? He’ll combine the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Payments systems. We’re waiting for more details on what that would entail, and whether this would also mean less money spent policing recipients, trying to catch fraudsters (of which there are very few).
Job cuts math
Hudak’s team keeps saying his plan to cut 100,000 people from the provincial payroll represents 10 per cent of public sector employment in Ontario. But that’s only true if you include all levels of government: There are about 500,000 provincial employees in the province, Statistics Canada says, which makes this 100,000-person cut about a fifth of the total.
But the Tories also have municipal employees in their sights, whose jobs could be on the line along with municipal funding.
No budget deficits, ever?
Hudak promised a budget balancing law that would prevent the province from passing a budget with a deficit. His PC predecessor Mike Harris did the same, only to saddle an incoming Liberal government with a surprise $5.6-billion deficit.
“I don’t put much stock in balanced budget laws,” Moffatt said in an email. “Experience in other provinces and states shows that they’re easily circumvented or removed when needed.”