The leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, Tim Hudak, is planning on releasing a “Million Jobs Act” that he claims, if implemented, will add one million jobs to the Ontario economy over eight years.
Without knowing the specific details of the plan, it is impossible to determine what impact, if any, Hudak’s policies will have on employment. What we can do, however, is put the million jobs number in context by looking at past Ontario job performance.
Statistics Canada has employment data for Ontario going back to 1976. Here are the number of net new jobs added (or subtracted) each year from 1977-2013:
One million jobs over eight years means that the Ontario economy would need to average 125,000 jobs a year over this period (which is represented by the “target” line on our graph). Since 1976 the Ontario economy has averaged only 85,000 net new jobs a year, though there have been many years that have exceeded the 125,000 threshold (1979, 1981, 1983-1988, 1997-2000 and 2003).
Of course, it is not enough to add 125,000 jobs in a single year, Ontario must average that over an eight year period to meet Mr. Hudak’s goal. Here is the same data, looking at employment growth over an eight year period:
The years on the chart represent the last year of an eight year period, so the figure “1999” represents the period 1991-1999. Of the 30 periods in our chart, Ontario only added a million net jobs in four of them: 1994-2002, 1995-2003, 1996-2004 and 1997-2005, though the province came very close in 1982-1990 (995.5 million net jobs) and 1998-2006 (994.8 million).
Given this past performance, adding one million net new jobs is an ambitious — but not impossible — target. Policy, no matter how designed, alone will not get us there. Ontario also needs a great deal of luck.