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Doug Ford orders hiring freeze as belt tightening begins at Queen's Park

Last Updated Dec 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm EDT

Ontario’s incoming premier has put the public service under a hiring freeze as part of a series of measures meant to limit spending as he re-examines the province’s books.

A spokesman for Doug Ford says the Progressive Conservative leader has also directed government ministries to cancel “subscription-based services” and to restrict out-of-province travel.

Simon Jefferies says the Tories will review government spending line by line to ensure taxpayers’ money is going to the services people rely on.

A source within the party says essential frontline staff, including those in policing and fire services, are exempt from the hiring freeze.

Any other hiring, aside from lateral moves within the public service or appointments required to fulfill collective agreements, must be officially approved before going forward.

The belt tightening comes after Ford campaigned on a promise to save billions each year by finding unspecified efficiencies, without cutting any jobs.

“It symbolic, but it’s actually real. It’s reality that we’re trying to make sure we respect taxpayer’s money,” Christine Elliott, MPP-elect for Newmarket-Aurora, told CityNews.

“It’s a whole new day and I think that people expect us to respect their money, to treat every tax dollar as it means something.”

The head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says he’s not surprised by the decision, but has concerns about how it may affect services and the 34,000 public sector workers the union represents.

“Whatever this man does will affect at least some of our members everywhere, and depending on the decision, could affect a lot of them,” said Warren “Smokey” Thomas, OPSEU’s president.

Thomas said he sent Ford a letter last week asking for a meeting and reminding him of his promise not to lay off any workers in his belt-tightening efforts, but said the premier-designate has yet to take him up on the offer.