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Wage Freeze Vital to Restoring Economic Health of Ontario

October 11, 2012

For almost a decade, Ontario has been at the mercy of a government intent on bringing the province to the brink of bankruptcy. Since being elected nine years ago, the McGuinty Liberal Government has implemented policy after policy that has explosively grown the size of government and ramped up spending to dizzying heights. If job creators are going to have confidence to invest and do business in Ontario again, they need to see a concrete plan to rein in the reckless spending that has been part and parcel of this government since 2003. One vital place to start is with ballooning government-union salaries and benefits.

The McGuinty Liberals recently announced a “proposal” to deal with unaffordable-union contracts. It’s all smoke and mirrors and it amounts to extending a lease on even more overspending. Under the Liberal proposal, wage restrictions wouldn’t take effect for several years until current labour contracts expire.

Some contracts, like those signed with unions representing the Toronto Transit Commission, Ontario Power Generation and the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation are locked in place until as late as 2014-2015. What’s more, 98 per cent of managers who received bonuses last year will still be eligible to receive them this year. And the arbitration changes once again fail to take into consideration the taxpayers’ ability to pay and local economic conditions.

I and my colleagues in the PC Caucus have been very clear: we can’t support the McGuinty Liberals’ proposal because it fails to address the problems of unaffordable government-union contracts. It doesn’t get the job done. Once again, the Liberal Government has responded to the absolutely urgent need to fix Ontario’s job and debt issues with empty legislation that not only fails to address the root of the problem, but greatly exacerbates it.

The government’s announcement pushes Ontario into a deeper fiscal hole and puts it on the path toward a $30-billion deficit. How can we expect businesses to invest in Ontario when the province is in such dire straits? How does this plan reassure the 600,000 Ontarians walking the streets unable to find work that their government is working hard for them? The unfortunate answer is that it does nothing to solve the unemployment crisis in this province.

The McGuinty Liberals knows what they need to do to win the PCs’ support to grow our economy. Our leader Tim Hudak and I have been clear. We need a wage freeze now and not in 2015. We want the government to adopt an immediate, legislated, across-the-board wage freeze that would last for at least two years with no exceptions, no excuses and no work term giveaways.
Our PC plan would save taxpayers $2-billion annually by freezing all wages, bonuses and movement through salary grids. Recognizing the need to foster a job-creating environment, shrink the deficit and reduce the size of government, we have also brought forward our Ability to Pay Act. The Ability to Pay Act will reform the broken arbitration system which is responsible for driving up government-union salaries to unaffordable heights. All MPPs will have the chance to vote for it on October 18. I can only hope the McGuinty Liberals do the right thing for once and support this pro-growth PC bill

The simple fact is that this Liberal Government has repeatedly violated the trust of all Ontarians. As we speak, the Liberal Minister of Energy, Chris Bentley, is charged with being in contempt of the Ontario Parliament for failing to disclose all documents relating to the cancelled power plants in Oakville and Mississauga that has cost the taxpayers at least $650 million. Ontario needs change and it needs it now. Only the PC Party of Ontario can put the province back on the road of economic recovery.