May 24, 2014 4:43 pm

Ontario Liberals claim Tory jobs plan is using ‘voodoo math’

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa is pictured in Toronto on April 15, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

TORONTO – Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa is accusing the Progressive Conservatives of using “voodoo math” to colossally inflate the number of new jobs a Tory government would create.

The Conservatives have made jobs the centrepiece of their campaign, promising to create half a million additional jobs over eight years with their cost- and tax-cutting policies.

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They’d hit their “million jobs” target by tacking that number onto the 523,000 new positions expected from normal economic growth over the same time period.

But Sousa said Saturday that PC Leader Tim Hudak’s plan is riddled with mathematical inaccuracies and numbers that simply don’t add up.

Sousa pointed to a Conference Board of Canada report commissioned for the Ontario Tories that helps underpin their employment projections, and said that it uses a different definition of employment than Hudak’s plan – resulting in what the Liberals call an eight-fold overstatement on jobs.

“In other words, Hudak didn’t double count. He counted them eight times,” Sousa said.

Sousa’s own party has come under fire for questionable calculations in the past, particularly on its estimates for how much it cost to cancel two gas plants in the Toronto area in what the opposition parties have charged was an attempt to secure Liberal seats in the last provincial election.

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The Liberals originally claimed the cost of scrapping one of the plants in Oakville would cost $40 million, but an investigation by the province’s auditor general found the decision will cost at least $675 million, and possibly as much as $810 million.

Sousa, however, brushed off questions about how voters could trust Liberal math on the PC’s platform.

“What’s critical is for us to recalibrate and ensure that we stimulate our economy,” he said.

The Liberals charge that Hudak’s plan to balance the budget in two years would require $8.7 billion in cuts, triggering a recession they say would wipe out all natural job growth and add only 35,000 net new jobs – a scenario they claim would put Hudak’s employment strategy off the mark by a whopping 96 per cent.

“He is misleading Ontarians to make his discredited promises sound better,” said Sousa, who played up his own party’s economic track record on attracting business investment.

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“That is what Ontarians deserve. Not the voodoo math of the Hudak PC’s.”

The Liberal analysis uses a bundle of methods to reach its prediction of a recession under a Hudak government – which Sousa admitted would only happen “at worst.”

Among them is an economic “multiplier” – which predicts the secondary economic impact from the cuts – as well as less-quantifiable factors such as waning consumer spending by workers worried about getting the axe under Hudak’s proposal to cut 100,000 jobs from the public sector.

But economist Mike Moffatt, with Western University’s Ivey School of Business, questioned those calculations.

“I don’t really understand how the Liberals are coming to that conclusion. I do not see any evidence that suggests that provincial government spending has that magnitude of an effect on a provincial economy,” he said.

“It is a very extraordinary claim, which should be backed up with extraordinary evidence.”

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Hudak has maintained that his cost-cutting plan involves some tough but necessary choices.

“I’m never going to sacrifice the right decisions and benefits for Ontario families to seek out short term popularity and promise everything under the sun,” he said at a town hall in Woodbridge, Ont.

“My clarity of purpose is to have more disposable income for hard working families, lower taxes and more jobs.”

He also railed against a key plank in the Liberal election platform, saying a proposed Ontario pension plan, if implemented, would cost about 150,000 people their jobs.

“(Premier) Kathleen Wynne wants to increase payroll taxes for this new pension scheme,” he said. “That’s going to take jobs out of the economy.”

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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