Two former Ontario premiers – one Tory and one Liberal – both seem to suggest that the actual number in PC Leader Tim Hudak's million jobs plan is beside the point. 

But David Peterson and Ernie Eves have very different explanations for their positions.

For Eves, who led a PC government in Ontario in 2002 and 2003, it's just a question of differing interpretations of data, not a case of bad math.

"The fact that some economists may not agree with the way that Mr. Hudak's campaign has calculated certain numbers I don't think is all that disturbing," Eves says on Saturday's edition of CBC Radio's The House.

"What I think is important, is that the policies that he's proposing to implement in the province of Ontario would create jobs. Whether that number is a million or 750,000, or 1.1 million, or whether it's 695,000, I really don't think makes any difference," Eves said.  

"Don't the numbers matter?" asks host Evan Solomon. "If it doesn't add up to a million jobs, then how do you believe he's got a million jobs plan?"

"That's his goal," Eves replies. "His plan is to try to create a million jobs in the province of Ontario. You can debate these numbers and you'll never get any two economists to agree on anything, let alone the methodology of how they go about doing it."

Critics question PC math

Opposition parties and many economists have charged that the Hudak campaign made a major mistake by confusing a key reference in a supporting document — specifically, by equating person-years of employment with individual jobs. The result, say the critics, is that the PC plan dramatically overstates the number of jobs Hudak's policies will create. Hudak, for his part, stands by the numbers.

Former Liberal premier David Peterson, who led the province from 1985 to 1990, thinks Hudak's million-jobs plan "probably doesn't bear up to intense scrutiny."

But Peterson says the whole flap is "more profound" than just a disagreement over math.

"It speaks to the dramatic oversimplification of politics today and how leaders have to really try to take reasonably complex things and make them simple [to] drive home [their] message," he said.

"I think Tim Hudak has been quite successful at keeping on that message. If you ask him how the weather is, he'll say ‘a million jobs.'"

Stark choices

Both former premiers think Ontario voters will have a stark choice to make when they go to the polls on election day. Not surprisingly, they don't agree on what that issue is.

"I think it's going to come down to the economy and whether or not Ontario can get back on track in terms of creating jobs and giving people employment and giving everybody an opportunity in life," says Eves.

Peterson says the election's outcome will hinge more on leadership.  

"Tim Hudak has not enjoyed wide support," Peterson says, contrasting him with Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, who he said is popular "even among people who don't like the Liberals."

"So I think it's coming down to a very interesting choice based on philosophy and based on the quality of the leadership, and they're quite different."

The next major test for Wynne, Hudak, and NDP Leader Andrea Horvath will come on June 3, when the three square off in a 90-minute debate.