McGuinty coy over cuts

The end of the recession marks the beginning of government restraint, warns Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The end of the recession marks the beginning of government restraint, warns Premier Dalton McGuinty.

As the Liberals table a fall economic statement today that will reveal a record deficit of more than $22 billion, McGuinty said it’s time to think about a post-recession economy no longer fuelled by billions in stimulus funds.

That could well include unpaid “Dalton Days” for public servants, among other belt-tightening measures.

“Do we have the will, working together, to ensure that we have a bright future and make the appropriate decisions today?” the premier said yesterday. “What we’re really setting out to do is ensure that we have the continuing capacity to support our public services.”

While McGuinty was coy about what his government would do to staunch the flow of red ink, he left open the door to a revival of former NDP premier Bob Rae’s “social contract.”

“We’re just beginning this discussion,” he said, when asked by reporters if public servants should expect mandatory furloughs derided as “Rae Days.”

Despite the mixed signals on cuts, the Liberals plan to move ahead next week with the long-awaited plan to phase in all-day kindergarten starting in September 2010.

“We know that, given the economic circumstances, we may not be able to do everything at once,” conceded Education Minister Kathleen Wynne.

The premier was circumspect after a journalist said his gloomy rhetoric recalled Rae’s in 1993 — when public service employees, including teachers, nurses, and bureaucrats, took 12 days of unpaid leave as a cost-saver.

“I don’t know. We’ve all got our own particular approaches obviously,” said McGuinty.

“I’ll let people judge, but what I would say is that … the next several months will be very important as we come up to our own particular approach to this.”

Salaries represent about 80 per cent of the provincial budget and account for three-quarters of all the money Queen’s Park transfers to municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals.

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