McGuinty visits Waterloo to talk about wage-freeze bill, byelection

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks to reporters next to Liberal candidate Eric Davis in a home in Waterloo. (Photo by Kate Turner)

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty joined a local family in Waterloo on Monday to announce what his party’s plan is with their controversial teacher’s wage-freeze bill that was introduced to Queen’s Park today. The bill, if passed, will not only impose a freeze on teachers’ pay, but would also temporarily ban strikes and lockouts.

“If you cast your mind to what it was like when we first formed a government, as I do from time to time, you would recall that strikes were commonplace and that academic performance suffered,” McGuinty told reporters in a Waterloo home. “Now we’re at a point in time where we can’t do what we did during the course of the past nine years with respect of teachers’ pay, we can’t reward them increases. What we did in the past nine years was realistic and responsible and was suited to the times

“But these times are different.”

The Liberal minority government and the various unions that represent Ontario teachers have been negotiating a new agreement the past few months but the process hasn’t be going smoothly. If the bill does not get passed, a strike or lockout can be imposed by 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 31.

So far the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have supported the bill, but the Ontario NDP have strongly opposed it.

“The NDP continue to maintain teachers at this point in time should receive a pay hike. We can’t afford to do that. Not right now,” he said.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty that prevails in the global economy,” added McGuinty about the rationale behind the Liberals’ stance. “Our rate of growth is modest, we carry a significant deficit, so we have to hit the pause button on public sector pay.”

He added that the bill could potentially save $2 billion dollars for the province.

The timing of the bill and McGuinty’s visit to Waterloo have raised some questions about how this situation relates to the upcoming byelections in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan. Eric Davis, the Liberal candidate for the K-W byelection, stood beside McGuinty when he addressed reporters.

When asked about the timing and if his pitch to the voters in the two ridings was to get a majority, McGuinty responded by saying, “I would take take issue that we’ve waited until the last minute , I guess we could have taken the house back in July. This is a lot bigger than any one byelection.”

“Our pitch is to take a look at how far we’ve come together.”

Kitchener-Conestoga PC MPP, Michael Harris, responded to the Liberals’ new bill by saying that the PCs were “bailing them out.”

“We’ve been talking about a wage freeze for ten months.The things that we come to cherish are now at risk because of the out of control spending that we’ve seen  in the last nine years. We’re happy that they’ve now taken a page out of our book,” he said.






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