03/13/2019 14:01 EDT | Updated 03/13/2019 14:57 EDT

Doug Ford Admits Health-Care Merger Will Include Layoffs

The premier had promised repeatedly that his government wouldn’t lay off any public servants.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters at Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge, Ont. on March 13, 2019.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says executives with "outrageous" salaries will lose their jobs as the province merges 20 health agencies into one.

A reporter asked the premier at a Cambridge, Ont. announcement whether his government's comments that no "frontline" workers will lose their jobs is an admission that others will. The government has changed its messaging in recent weeks, after Ford promisedrepeatedly during last year's election campaign that no public servants would lose their jobs under a Progressive Conservative government.

"You know who's going to lose their jobs, unfortunately, are the people in the [Local Health Integration Networks], the CEOs, that are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, the big silos they have there, the big executives, presidents, vice presidents, making outrageous amounts of money," the premier said Wednesday.

"We're going to take that money and put it to the frontlines."

You know who's going to lose their jobs, unfortunately, are the people in the LHINs, the CEOs.Premier Doug Ford

Ford's minister of health, Christine Elliott, announced in February that the PCs will merge Ontario's 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and other health agencies into one "super agency" to oversee health care.

Elliott refused to directly answer questions about layoffs at the time.

"That is something that we can't answer right now," she said.

Ford blamed the impending layoffs on former premier Kathleen Wynne's government.

"I'll tell you, when we came into office, those books were a financial disaster, absolute disaster," he said. "You look at all the files, no matter the autism file, the energy file, I don't know how this government even worked."

Ontario's deficit skyrocketed under the Liberals, with the province now spending $12.3 billion more than it brings in every year. As a result, total debt stands at nearly $350 billion.

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Ford said Wednesday that his government's first budget, on April 11, will include a plan to get back to balance.

"We're not going in there with a big hack saw, chopping everything up," he said. "We're going to do it responsibly."

Asked if managers in areas other than health care, like education, can also expect to lose their jobs, Ford said that is still under review.

"I've always said we're going to protect our frontline people," he said, even though that was not his message during the campaign.

"We've kept our promise made, promise kept on that."

Some frontline workers are losing their jobs, however.

Brant Child and Family Services in Brantford says that the Ontario government has asked it to cut about 24 staff members. And Grand River Hospital in Waterloo, Ont. recently eliminated 40 nursing positions, though 30 of those nurses were offered other positions and some left through early retirement.

This story has been updated with details about layoffs at Brant Child and Family Services and Grand River Hospital.

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