By Ben Eisen
and Steve Lafleur
The Fraser Institute
Ontarians have suffered more than their share of economic pain over the past 15 years. For much of the 2000s, the province’s manufacturing sector was struggling and then the 2008-09 recession made things much worse. In the years that followed, the province’s recovery was unfortunately tepid.
This pain, however, has spread unevenly across the province. Toronto (and its surrounding area) and Ottawa have been spared the worst of the economic damage.
But if you look outside the province’s two largest metropolitan areas, you’ll find that large numbers of Ontarians have suffered even more than statistics suggest.
In a recent study, we analyzed job growth between 2008 and 2018 (the latest year of comparable data) in Ontario’s 15 largest population centres. We found that 91 per cent of all net job creation in Ontario took place in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Ottawa, compared to nine per cent in the rest of the province.
Between 2008 and 2018, the number of jobs in increased by 17.3 per cent in the GTA and 9.7 per cent in Ottawa, compared to just 1.9 per cent in the rest of the province.
So outside of Toronto and Ottawa, there was almost no net job creation over 10 years.
When we discuss weak economic performance outside of Toronto and Ottawa, we’re not just talking about small towns and rural areas. Other major population centres have stagnated.
Consider that southwestern Ontario, which has experienced weak job growth and has approximately as many residents as the Maritime provinces combined. London is about the same size as Halifax.
Northern Ontario, which also experienced slow rates of job creation during the 10 years, is more populous than any individual Maritime province.
Poor net job-creation rates in Ontario (outside Toronto and Ottawa) is not only an important story for the provincial economy but also for the national economy. As long as large and populous regions of Ontario struggle, the province and the country will be unable to meet their full economic potential.
Of course, job creation in Toronto and Ottawa is good news. But a deeper look outside the two largest cities reveals a lost decade with respect to job growth.
Hopefully as provincial and federal policy-makers become more aware of the magnitude of Ontario’s economic woes, they will recognize the need for pro-growth policies. Such policies can help spur job creation, wage growth and prosperity for Ontarians, no matter where they live in the province.
Ben Eisen and Steve Lafleur are analysts at the Fraser Institute.