Ontario Tories draw fire with plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak speaks in Vaughan, on Thursday, May 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leader drew swift condemnation from his opponents Friday as he announced a plan to slash the number of public sector workers in the province by 100,000 if he wins next month’s election.

Tim Hudak said it would be a tough move, but one that would reap benefits in the future.

“I take no joy in this, but it has to be done if we want job creators to put more people on the payroll in our province,” he said in Barrie, Ont.

Hudak’s vision — which forms part of his much-touted plan to create one million jobs over eight years — would trade jobs in the public service for the creation of new positions in the private sector.

“Vital” services, such as those carried out by nurses, doctors and police, would not be affected, Hudak said.

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne called Hudak’s plan “disastrous.”

“If he says today that he is going to balance the budget a year earlier than we are proposing he will have to not (only) shrink government, he will have to slash services,” she said.

“He will have to cut and slash deeply into education, into childcare, into health care. He will have to cut services across the board, which will mean our most vulnerable people will be at risk. There is no question about it.”

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath also slammed the Tory proposal, saying it would add further strain to the province’s hard-hit workforce.

“How does it make sense, when you have an economy that is struggling, when you have a lot of families already out of work, to say you are going to throw a whole bunch more families out of work,” she said.

Hudak defended his plan by saying it would result in a 10 per cent reduction in the size of the public sector and save $2 billion a year.

The Tory leader has already said that teachers will be targeted. He also vowed to eliminate agencies like the Ontario Power Authority, Local Health Integration Networks and the College of Trades.

Those steps would be coupled with a two-year wage freeze for everyone in the broader public sector including politicians, civil servants and anyone else paid by taxpayers.

The number of administrative jobs across government would also be reduced and Hudak would shrink the size of cabinet from 27 to 16 ministers.

It’s all part of Hudak’s larger goal of eliminating the province’s projected $12.5-billion deficit by 2016 — a year before the Liberals say they can balance the books.

“I’m not going to be the leader that promises you more and more spending,” Hudak said Friday. “There’s no compassion in borrowing money on your credit card and handing it over to you. I’m actually promising less spending.”

_ With files from Keith Leslie, Maria Babbage and William Campbell.

© The Canadian Press, 2014