Battered by a worldwide financial meltdown, Premier Dalton McGuinty is warning that Ontario desperately needs a revamped economic “foundation” to emerge from the recession.
Insisting he is not trying to “frighten” people, McGuinty stressed government alone could not tackle the daunting challenges facing the province and he pointedly refused to rule out the return of unpaid “Rae Days” for civil servants.
Asked three times during a 23-minute interview with the Toronto Star yesterday whether he was considering the mandatory “holidays” that former NDP premier Bob Rae imposed on public sector employees as a cost-saving measure, the premier left the door wide open.
“I’ll leave that to Dwight. Obviously, we have some real challenges,” he said, referring to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who is tabling the province’s budget in late February or early March with an expected deficit of between $5 billion and $10 billion. “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to square this circle.”
Queried as to how his government would lead by example in times of austerity, McGuinty, who was visibly tired, warned “this recession is different than the other ones.”
“We can’t just do what we’ve done in the past, which is ‘a little nip here, a little tuck there, this thing’s going to blow over and all we need to do is grapple with a deficit and the recession.’ We can’t just do that. We have to strengthen this economy,” the premier said.