May 8, 2012
McGuinty looking for support on a public sector pay freeze
By Jonathan Jenkins, Queen's Park Bureau
Premier Dalton McGuinty is on the prowl for a new political partner to help him keep a lid on public sector compensation.
After working out an agreement with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to get the Liberal budget passed, McGuinty said he’s now looking to PC Leader Tim Hudak to back up any move to legislate pay freezes.
“First of all, I’m hopeful it doesn’t come to legislated measures in order for us to deal with wage freezes, but secondly, should it come to that, I think it’s important that the public sector, our public sector partners know that we will not shrink from that responsibility,” McGuinty said Tuesday. “If it does come to that... I’m hoping we can count on Mr. Hudak and his party because I believe we have some common ground there.”
The minority McGuinty government moved on its own this week to lower OHIP fees for doctors, and is now staring down unhappy teacher unions.
His government has not budgeted for compensation increases for either group of public servants.
If the Liberals opt to resolve outstanding bargaining issues with legislation, they will need support from one of the two opposition parties.
Tory MPP Peter Shurman said his party supports a legislated pay freeze on all public sector wages, but will consider any proposal from McGuinty.
“If they’re serious about wanting to legislate a wage freeze in the broader public sector, then they have to demonstrate by getting together with us and engaging in reasonable debate,” Shurman said.
McGuinty has been so “nice” that the average broader public sector worker now makes about 27% more than an equivalent employee in the private sector — an unsustainable situation that’s helping propel the province toward a $411 billion debt by 2017-18, Shurman said.
Horwath, whose budget negotiations with McGuinty led to a new tax on the rich and increased spending in some areas, said she does not believe in a legislated solution to disputes in collective bargaining.