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Opposition says NDP job-creation numbers 'grossly overstated'

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Opposition MLAs are accusing the Selinger government of exaggerating its job-creation numbers.

Finance Minister Jennifer Howard projected that the province’s five-year $5.5 billion infrastructure plan would create 58,900 "jobs" in her budget address last week. Other government MLAs have also used the figure.

The employment estimate was based on an analysis by Conference Board of Canada conducted for the province.

It described the creation of 58,900 "person years" of employment over five years.

The Opposition Conservatives and Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard argued in the legislature Wednesday that the two are not the same thing. They said the "person years" figures are not cumulative.

"According to NDP math, if one person was employed in the first year and stayed employed for the next four years that person would be counted five times," Gerrard told the House. "The problem is that if these were permanent jobs the maximum number you would create is 14,000, less than 25 per cent of the 58,000 this NDP government is misrepresenting."

Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said the jobs figures were "grossly overstated."

Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald said the Opposition parties were "splitting hairs."

The federal government and other jurisdictions use the terms interchangeably, she said. As do ordinary people.

"When young people come home and announce excitedly to their parents, they don’t say ‘I’ve got a person year of employment.’ They say, ‘I’ve got a job.’ And that’s exactly what this plan is about," Oswald said told reporters.

In its report to the government, the conference board said the province’s infrastructure plan would create between 8,500 and 13,300 person years of employment each year between 2014 and 2018.

"On average, over the five-year period that we looked at this kind of spending, you’re in essence looking at 11,000 or so jobs on average," Pedro Antunes, project manager for the conference board analysis, told the Canadian Press.

He said the 58,900 figure is a cumulative number of person-years of employment that the report says will be created over the five-year program. For example, one person’s job, held for all five years, counts as five person-years of employment.

However, Oswald noted that over the course of the infrastructure program projects will change and new people will receive jobs as a result. "The very nature of construction is that a project begins and people go to work at a job every day and then the project ends. But after that project ends another construction project begins," she said.

An online dictionary defines person-year as "a unit of measurement, especially in accountancy, based on an ideal amount of work done by one person in a year consisting of a standard number of person-days."

— with a file by the Canadian Press

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

 

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