Chris Selley: Kathleen Wynne gets boost from war on economics, aided by weak Conservative opposition

Polls suggest Premier Kathleen Wynne’s ongoing war on economists is paying dividends. Fifty-three per cent approve of her Liberal government extending rent control to units built after 1991, according to a Forum Research poll conducted in May; only 25 per cent disapproved. In June, Forum found 53 per cent of Ontarians supported jacking up the minimum wage to $15 from $11.40 by Jan. 1, 2019, versus 38 per cent opposed. The move was hugely popular among Liberal voters (79 per cent) and NDP voters (28 per cent). Wynne’s approval rating is staggering back up toward, um, 20 per cent. But a Campaign Research poll released Sept. 13 had the Tories just five points ahead of the Liberals. That’s pretty great news for this beleaguered tribe.

The boffins still aren’t playing along, though.

Earlier this month, Queen’s Park’s Financial Accountability Office projected the hike would “result in a loss of approximately 50,000 jobs … with job losses concentrated among teens, young adults, and recent immigrants.” And it could be higher, the FAO cautioned, because there’s very little precedent for, and thus little evidence on which to judge, a hike as rapid as the one the Liberals propose — 32 per cent per cent in less than two years.

This week, TD Economics weighed in with a higher number: “a net reduction in jobs of about 80,000 to 90,000 positions by the end of the decade.” And the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis paints the grimmest picture: “We (expect) that the Act will, over two years, put 185,000 jobs at risk” — that’s jobs that already exist or that would otherwise have been created.

It’s easy to see why raising the minimum wage is popular. Governments like it because it doesn’t show up in the budget. We in the media can pretty easily find victims of an $11.40 minimum wage, and reasonably compassionate people quite rightly sympathize. Forty hours a week at $11.40 an hour for 50 weeks a year is $22,800. You can’t live on…

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