Watch above: Deb Mathews admits public sector workers might get a raise despite so-called wage freeze
TORONTO – Deb Matthews, now responsible for getting Ontario’s deficit under control, wouldn’t say definitively whether public sector workers would be fired.
Ontario’s new Treasury Board president also admitted the purported wage freeze for public employees simply means no new costs – if other sacrifices are made, public sector workers can still get a raise.
“There’s no new money for wage increases so that doesn’t mean there isn’t really important work that has to happen around the bargaining that would look at how you can achieve that net zero,” she said during an interview on Focus Ontario.
“There is no new money. If there are any wage increases it’s going to be because there are other sacrifices made.”
See the full episode of Focus Ontario at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday
More than half of government spending each year goes to salaries and benefits of the Ontario Public Service and Broader Public Service.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has repeatedly said the government has “difficult choices” to make and has remained adamant there’s no new money for wage increases during coming negotiations with a handful of public sector unions.
The province is struggling with growing debt of approximately $267.5 billion and a $12.5-billion deficit.
Former Liberal Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he warned Liberal leadership contenders they would have to make significant cuts to reach a balanced budget by 2017-2018.
But speaking on Focus Ontario Thursday, Matthews would not say whether her government – which criticized PC candidate Tim Hudak heavily for promising to cut 100,000 public sector workers – would cut from that same stable of workers to meet its budget targets.
“There are very difficult choices ahead, make no mistake about it. This deficit will not eliminate itself,” she said. “We’ve got an absolute commitment to protect the services, the public services that matter to the people of Ontario. And we have a commitment to get to balance in the next three years.”
She added that every cabinet minister is making sure Ontarians get the “best value for every dollar we spend,” but she wouldn’t say what cuts – if any – would be implemented.