The Liberal government is “trying to lead by example” with a freeze on MPPs’ pay that other public sector employers should also consider imposing, says Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Striking a note from one of his political heroes, former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, McGuinty issued a clarion call for sacrifices for the greater good.

“Ask not what your provincial government can impose on you; ask what as a member of the public sector you can bring to the table,” the premier said Friday in Ottawa.

“In some ways, those of us within the public sector have been sheltered from the full ravages of this private-sector recession.”

The premier, who last week was also musing about selling off Crown assets such as the troubled Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., declined to specify what belt-tightening measures would be in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s March budget.

But he did signal he expects hospitals, school boards, colleges and universities and municipalities to closely watch what his administration is doing.

“We’re trying to lead by example. We have frozen our pay,” said McGuinty.

“We’ve made a commitment to reduce the size of our public service by five per cent,” he said, referring to the plan outlined in last March’s budget to cut jobs through attrition and retirements.

“I think that’s pretty significant and as I’ve said to all folks who find themselves working within the public sector … I think we all have to ask ourselves what can we do given our times to make sure that we can manage?”

With Ontario’s record $24.7-billion budget deficit, McGuinty is struggling to determine where cuts can be made in a province that has been hurt by the worldwide recession. He has rejected “Dalton Days” — unpaid furloughs for civil servants — but many other options remain on the table.

“It means that folks running our hospitals, folks running our cities, folks running our school boards all have a responsibility to come together, sit down and find ways to deal with it,” he said.

Sources have told the Toronto Star the Liberals are considering across-the-board cuts to every area except health and education.

However, about $62.6 billion of the projected $113.7-billion budget — or 55 per cent — funds hospitals, clinics, schools, colleges and universities. That means even an unlikely 10 per cent cut in the remaining $51.1 billion in spending would yield $5.1 billion in savings, covering only about one-fifth of the budget shortfall.

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