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Message to McGuinty: Stop the Spending

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Ontario is a place of boundless potential -- and we can harness that potential again. But right now we're in a deep hole, and if we're going to climb out we need some straight talk about how we got into it in the first place.

The cause is nine years of reckless overspending. The effect is that we've run out of money, which puts everything we value at risk. Compounding the problem is a government that's adrift and out of gas. In the year since the last election, Dalton McGuinty has utterly failed to grasp the seriousness of our situation: not a nickel shaved off his $16 billion deficit, and no action to reduce the cost of our bloated public sector.

In fact, he made things worse -- with a budget that increased taxes and spending, more costly commitments like a home reno tax credit and a tuition grant, and doubling down on a failed green energy program that has pushed electricity costs through the roof. We just can't afford more of the same.

But this government has no plan to turn things around: nothing to rein in overspending, to boost our competiveness and attract investment, or to get our economic fundamentals right to create jobs. They spent years throwing money at their problems. But now, there's nothing left to throw.

In fact, all we have to show for the so-called "emergency session" of the Legislature is exactly one partial wage freeze for one group of government employees. There are 3,999 still to go. We just don't have time for an endless "bargaining-go-round" of the kind we've seen the past several weeks with teachers alone.

This may explain something disturbingly false about the Premier's recent statements: He wants you to forget the huge raises he gave the public sector unions over nine years, and believe what he is saying now. In the next breath, he wants public sector workers to forget what he is saying now, and remember the raises he gave them over nine years.

We need urgent action. So we've tabled a bold package of ideas called "Freeze, Fix, Review." We need an immediate, across-the board wage freeze for the entire public sector, and have a bill on the shelf that's ready to go. We first tabled this legislation last May, which the government promptly voted down. If they are truly serious, this time, about a broad-based wage freeze -- including an end to "performance" bonuses doled out recently to 98 per cent of public sector managers who simply showed up for work -- they'll run with it.

Other perks that have to go include unsustainable benefits the private sector got rid of years ago, like being able to store up sick days and turn them over for money on retirement. Sick days are for being sick, not for cashing out like so many poker chips.

Next, we'll push to halt planned spending increases in no fewer than 14 of 24 Ministries (representing over 80 per cent of total spending, incidentally), which will buy time to get down into fundamental, structural change to fix the way the government works and spends. And as a third step back toward fiscal sanity, we'll need a Fall Economic Statement that actually begins to reduce government spending on a permanent basis.

This is the kind of bold, conservative action I pledged to my party. And we're not stepping off the gas: The weeks to come will see a steady stream of provocative new "Paths to Prosperity" white papers on boosting our competitiveness to create jobs. We've already changed the debate with Affordable Energy and Flexible Labour Markets -- to bring down electricity costs for consumers and businesses alike and modernize our 1940s-era labour laws, respectively. And we're just getting started. Please check our progress for yourself.

Our immediate challenge, though, must be to send this his Premier a message: Stop the overspending and focus on job creation: It's time for straight talk -- and a real plan to get our economy moving. That's where we come in.