TORONTO - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty shrugged off concerns Tuesday that Saskatchewan's cash-infused efforts to lure graduates west will exacerbate his province's economic woes by poaching its best and brightest.

McGuinty insisted that Ontario still has 100,000 jobs it can't fill, even though the province has lost about 160,000 jobs since October and its unemployment rate is at a 12-year high.

"My competition is not the rest of Canada," he said.

"My competition is New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, even California. And we are not going to take our eye off that ball."

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is headed to Ontario next week to offer college and university graduates up to $20,000 if they move to his province and stay for at least seven years.

The offer is being made to graduates across Canada, but Wall is making the pitch himself in Toronto -- his second Ontario recruitment drive in seven months.

Manitoba is also setting its sights on Ontario and other hard-hit provinces this spring with a $2-million TV ad campaign to entice disheartened workers to relocate.

Both Manitoba and Saskatchewan have managed to escape from the worst effects of the recession and are among the few provinces expected to see growth this year.

Ontario, on the other hand, has fallen to have-not status and is expected to unveil a budget Thursday that will include a massive deficit of about $18 billion over two years.

Workers are already leaving Ontario because they can't find jobs, and the brain drain will worsen if the government doesn't give graduates an incentive to stay, said interim Progressive Conservative Leader Bob Runciman.

"This is a serious situation when our best and brightest could be lost to us forever," he said.

"Once someone gets into a position like that, marries, has a family, they tend to put down roots, and we have lost those people."