Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
Thunder Bay-Atikokan PC Candidate Harold Wilson.
THUNDER BAY -- Harold Wilson is openly questioning the methodology behind an Ontario Federation of Labour report suggesting Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s plan to slash the public sector by 100,000 would cost Thunder Bay up to 2,460 public and private jobs.
Wilson, the Tory candidate in Thunder Bay-Atikokan, said Northwestern Ontario didn’t see huge employment growth as the Liberals added 300,000 jobs since 2009 to the provincial payroll, and shouldn’t expect to see many jobs cut if Hudak gains power on June. 12.
“Yes, there are areas that need to be addressed. Those are the ones we’re going to go after. To think that we’re going to lose 2,400 jobs in Northwestern Ontario doesn’t stand up to any water at all, it’s certainly not what I’ve been fighting for,” Wilson said.
The original OFL report looked at Ontario’s 14 largest communities, and suggested Thunder Bay would be the hardest hit of them all, based on the overall change in the unemployment rate, which would grow by 3.8 percentage points to 9.6 per cent. Sudbury would also be hard-hit, with an estimated 2,875 jobs lost.
An expanded list shows 339 jobs gone in Kenora and 1,349 in Sault Ste. Marie.
Toronto would be hardest hit in terms of sheer numbers, with 62,892 fewer jobs as a result of the cuts.
The number takes into account both the actual number of government jobs cut as well as the spinoff impact in the private sector, using a multiplier of 0.67.
All told, about 167,000 people would be out of work.
OFL president Sid Ryan, whose organization has embarked on a Stop Hudak campaign, issued a stern warning of the potential impact.
“It will take years to recover,” he said in a release.
Wilson said what the numbers aren’t factoring in is the 1 million private-sector jobs Hudak is promising, over eight years, in the Conservative platform.
Even if the OFL numbers were accurate, Wilson is convinced Northwestern Ontario, with about 1.8 per cent of Ontario’s population, would be well ahead of its present employment levels.
“If someone were to say to me, are you thinking you, with your government in power, could create the conditions that 18,000 to 20,000 jobs could be created, the answer is yes,” Wilson said.
“The mining sector alone could mean thousands of jobs. We know that. People are being trained for jobs in the mines, but we’re not getting those jobs right now because we don’t have access. We haven’t been doing the approval process right.”
NDP candidate Mary Kozorys questioned Wilson's logic, wondering where the jobs are coming from.
"The math doesn't make sense," she said.
Liberal incumbent Bill Mauro said he can’t speak for the OFL numbers per se, but says it’s hard to believe 100,000 cuts province wide wouldn’t be felt locally.
“What I do know is the top six or seven employers in Thunder Bay are the public sector,” Mauro said. “It’s amazing that the Progressive Conservative candidate would be saying Thunder Bay and the region would not be affected by these cuts.”
Green Party candidate John Northey (Thunder Bay-Atikokan) said the number being put forth by the OFL is plausible, though without the labour group’s methodology, he’s not sure how accurate it might be.
“I do believe the cuts will hit Thunder Bay disproportionately hard due to the number of people that rely on government jobs,” he said.
Arbitrarily picking a number out of a hat, like Hudak’s 100,000 is dangerous, he said, agreeing there are inefficiencies in government that need to be cleaned up.
“It’s a risky maneuver,” he said.
The Ontario Federation of Labour was contacted for comment, but was not immediately available Friday afternoon.
The research was conducted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Toby Sanger.