Wynne adamant there’s no money for public sector wage increases

ABOVE: In this in-depth conversation, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Alan Carter asks Premier Kathleen Wynne the hard questions when it comes to her campaign, her commitment to balancing the budget, an Ontario pension plan – and much more!

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne says the people of Ontario have spoken and the budget she will reintroduce to the legislature will provide the road map to balanced books in 2017/18.

“The path to balance is laid out in our budget. So we’ve made assumptions of how we’re going to get there, part of that is we need the revenue that would come from asking the top 2 per cent of earners to pay a bit more.  And so my plan is to follow that plan,” Wynne said, referring to tax increase on people earning more than $150,000 a year.

Wynne made the comments in a sit-down interview with Global News from her second floor office at Queen’s Park one week after winning a majority government and becoming the first openly gay women to be elected premier of Ontario.

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Many economists have predicted Wynne will have to enact Harris-like austerity in order to fulfill both spending promises and get back to black ink in three years as the province battles a $12.5 billion deficit.

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But will Wynne bring in new taxes if the economy stalls and revenue is less than expected in order to balance the budget?  The premier would only commit to keeping taxpayers in the loop.

“I’m going to be in pretty constant communication with the people of Ontario, as someone asked me a couple of days ago, how would they know if there was going to be a change in the transit plan for example, we are going to communicate to the people of Ontario as we implement our plan about our progress,” she said.

One of the major hurdles for the Liberal majority government will be reigning in wages without a legislative hammer behind its back.

Wynne has committed to collective bargaining with unions but stressed Thursday there is no money for increased wages.  Dalton McGuinty tried the same move with teachers in 2012, only to find the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) entrenched in its position and refusing to budge.   McGuinty chose to introduce Bill 115 giving the government power to impose deals on teachers which subsequently caused chaos in schools as some canceled extra-curriculars and others did not.

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In Depth: Ontario Election 2014

What is the guarantee the Liberals won’t find themselves in the same boat again in 2015 when negotiations resume with teachers? Wynne didn’t say exactly but promised they’re working hard.

“We’ve worked very hard over the last 16 months to get new legislation, particularly vis a vis, the teachers federations to get new legislation for the education sector so we can have a better collective bargaining process” Wynne said.

Whether the process prompts enough goodwill at the bargaining table for zero percent wage increases is a bridge still to be crossed.