Ontario premier-designate Doug Ford orders public sector hiring freeze

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, raising concerns among some government workers.

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

“The people of Ontario work hard for their money and they expect their tax dollars to go to the services we all depend on,” Simon Jefferies said in a statement.

“We are also going to go line by line through the government’s books to ensure value of money for the people of Ontario’s tax dollars.”

During the election campaign, Ford promised to launch an audit of government spending and to save billions each year by finding unspecified efficiencies, without cutting any jobs.

The exact scope of the hiring freeze remains unclear but a source within the party says essential frontline staff, including those in policing, corrections and fire services, are exempt.

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

The Tory cabinet is expected to be officially sworn in on June 29, however, a memo sent to deputy ministers and posted on the government website said the spending restrictions are effective immediately.

“Any planned expenditures that are not committed by contract and/or required to meet immediate legal obligations or address matters of health and safety are to be deferred pending further direction,” it said.

“In cases where work is in progress, an assessment should be undertaken and available options exercised as appropriate to slow and/or temporarily stop activities until further direction is received.”