Premier Dalton McGuinty refused to say Thursday if the public-sector wage freeze legislation opposed by the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats will be a confidence vote in his minority Liberal government.
"Without speaking to that particular issue...an integral part of our plan to attack the deficit is to put in place a freeze on public-sector compensation," McGuinty told the media after his annual agri-food summit.
When reporters pointed out he hadn't answered the question about whether he would declare the bill a confidence motion, McGuinty admitted he was ducking the issue.
"Yeah I know," he said. "That was deliberate. Why is this a surprise?"
The Liberals unveiled a draft version of the bill last week to get opposition input on the plan to freeze wages of 481,000 workers in hospitals, colleges, universities, nursing homes and the civil service to help eliminate a deficit projected at $14.8 billion.
The Tories want the government to open labour contracts to impose an immediate pay freeze, and said they can't vote for a "weak" bill that exempts municipalities, which means police, firefighters and public transit workers will not be covered.
McGuinty rejected the Tory demand to open existing contracts as "a constitutional non-starter," and said he won't extend the wage freeze legislation to cover municipalities, who directly employ police and firefighters.
"We have enough challenges with our own fiscal problems," he said.