Wynne’s economic boasting rings hollow

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/PHOTO)

Premier Kathleen Wynne is already test driving her economic message to Ontarians heading into the June, 2018 provincial election.

On Newstalk 1010 Friday, she boasted Ontario has generated 729,000 net new jobs since the 2008 global recession, 335,000 since she became premier and that the province’s unemployment rate has been under the national average for 28 months.

Of course, if Wynne’s going to take credit for what she says is the good economic news — silly, because governments don’t create economic conditions so much as they respond to them — then she’ll have to take the fall for the bad economic news.

For example, that for eight years, from the start of 2007 to the end of 2014, Ontario’s unemployment rate was above the national average.

That, as Toronto Sun columnist Ben Eisen of the Fraser Institute has noted, from 2004 (a year after the provincial Liberals came to power under Dalton McGuinty) to 2014, annual private-sector job growth in Ontario averaged 0.6% — about half the rate of job creation in the rest of Canada.

That from 2003-2014 Ontario’s inflation-adjusted economic growth per person averaged 0.3% annually — a third of the national average.

That in 2012, average disposable household income in Ontario fell below the national average for the first time.

On Thursday, the Fraser Institute released a new report on labour market performance from 2014-16 it said showed Ontario is “near the back of the pack”, in 44th place out of 60 jurisdictions, among the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces.

Labour market performance is determined by such factors as job creation, unemployment levels and labour output.

In what study co-author Charles Lammam called one of the gloomiest statistics, the Fraser study found Ontario has the highest long-term unemployment in Canada, with one in five unemployed workers out of a job for 27 weeks or more.

Wynne and the Liberals, of course, would like voters to forget all of this.

Along with the fact that under their leadership Ontario has become the most indebted sub-sovereign (non-national) borrower in the world, had its credit rating downgraded and became a “have not” province for the first time in 2009-10, under the federal equalization payment system.

(Ontario is now moving out of have not status.)

It’s the easiest thing in the world for Wynne to claim credit now for the fact Ontario’s economy is improving (along with the rest of the country) compared to the depths of the 2008 global recession.

But the reality is the Ontario economy fell so far under the Liberals, that we now have a longer way to go to catch up with other, more successful economic jurisdictions.

Finally, governments don’t create jobs — not the private sector ones that pay the freight for the public sector — businesses do.

Something for voters to remember in June. 

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