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Fact check: Will Stephen Harper create 1.3 million jobs by 2020?

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The claim: A Conservative government would aim to create 1.3 million net new jobs by 2020. Is this likely?

First off, the promise is watered down with the word "aim." It begs the question: why not aim even higher? Two million jobs! FIVE MILLION JOBS! And so on.

But: is this a reasonable promise? Can the Conservatives create 1.3 million net new jobs in five years?

The Conservative plan is thin on details. To create these new jobs, they promise to cut payroll taxes by 20 per cent and continue with their Economic Action Plan spending in "infrastructure, skills training and innovation."

I addressed whether or not cutting payroll taxes (or: allowing corporations to pay less into the Canada Pension Plan) stimulates job creation here (it doesn't). It's not possible to draw a straight line between tax cuts and job creation.

From 2004 to 2008, more than 1.5 million new jobs were created, through nearly 322,000 jobs were lost. The Conservatives claim that the Economic Action Plan created 610,000 net new jobs. In their final report for the Economic Action Plan, like in their election promise, they reference the fact that the home renovation tax credit was a critical part of creating new jobs.

By 2015, the number was reduced to 1.2 million net new jobs.

It is likely going to take more than infrastructure and skills spending to reach their 1.3 million target. Between 2009 and 2013, 45 per cent of all new jobs were created in just two industries: health and social assistance (250,000 jobs) and construction (just over 200,000 jobs). Over the same time period, the technical, scientific and professional industries created 141,000 jobs.

From 2009-2012, the federal government spent $14.5 billion on more than 30,000 projects. This includes $7 billion spent on "stimulating building construction," including home renovations. With provincial funds included, the program put $24.7 billion into the economy. Indeed, if you spend this kind of money, you expect to see job growth.

The 2015 Economic Action Plan does not promise similar levels of stimulus spending nor have the Conservatives promised any more money during the election.

Can the Conservatives reasonably promise to match job creation of years past without similar levels of spending? They can promise to try, but there's no guarantee.

In an email, CCPA economist Kaylie Tiessen asks whether or not 1.3 million jobs would even be enough:

"Canada's employment rate is 2.4 percentage points lower than it was in September 2008 -- we need an additional 620,000 jobs today just to say we've recovered.  Looking forward, the question is how many more jobs does Canada need in order to get back to the pre-recession employment rate and what policies need to be put in place to help achieve that goal."



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