Free campaign slogan for any mayoral candidates in need: “Toronto is lagging”

Free campaign slogan for any mayoral candidates in need: “Toronto is lagging”

(Image: Benson Kua)

Rob Ford’s pitch to voters in the 2014 mayoral election is essentially this: “You can just ignore all the crack stuff, because my economic record makes up for it. I’m personally responsible for saving the city a billion dollars, and Toronto is booming.” (That’s a paraphrase.)

We already know that the “billion dollars” part is categorically false, and now the Toronto Region Board of Trade has given us some reason to doubt the “Toronto is Booming” part, as well.

A new report authored jointly by the Board of Trade and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity says Toronto’s productivity declined by six per cent between 2000 and 2010, putting us well behind similarly sized North American cities in terms of GDP per worker, a key indicator of overall prosperity. In an interview with the Globe, Roger Martin, chairman of the Institute For Competitiveness, said that although the data used in the report is a few years old, the downward trend is ongoing. The report pins the blame on several factors, including underinvestment in the city’s public infrastructure.

The good news for Ford is that no politician can actually claim very much individual credit for economic outcomes, good or bad. These are forces too mysterious and unwieldy for any one person to control. And all things considered, Toronto is still in good shape. Nobody is saying the city is unliveable.

Still, when Ford makes a claim like “I have created 57,000 jobs” (which he was saying as recently as Friday), it’s worth bearing in mind that Toronto’s economic state is nothing to brag about. Using the city’s seasonally adjusted numbers, as of February there were actually about 6,000 fewer people employed in Toronto than there were when Ford took power in January 2011.