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Doug Ford says nurses, teachers exempt from public sector hiring freeze

Ontario’s incoming premier said Tuesday that teachers and nurses are exempt from the public service hiring freeze he has ordered as part of his efforts to curb government spending.

The Progressive Conservatives had previously said the freeze did not apply to essential frontline staff such as police, corrections and fire services, as well as lateral moves within the public service.

But some, including the NDP, had raised concerns about which jobs would be considered essential and how that could potentially impact services such as health care and education.

When asked if his hiring freeze would apply to nurses, Ford said “absolutely not.”

“There’s not on the teachers either,” he said. “But again, we’re going to make sure we watch every single penny of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

Ford was also asked when he would recall the Ontario legislature and launch a government-wide audit he promised during the campaign, but would only say that details of both plans would be announced in the coming days.

Ford’s comments came as his Progressive Conservative caucus met for the first time since winning a majority this month.

Asked about what message he was bringing to his team of legislators, Ford said he stressed the need to help Ontario residents and be prudent with public funds.

“Never forget who put us here — the people,” he said. “And make sure that we watch every single penny moving forward. No more lunches, no more free lunches.”

Earlier in the day, Ford emphasized campaign promises to put money back in taxpayers’ pockets.

In a short speech to an enthusiastic Tory crowd, Ford recapped some of steps taken by his transition team, including last week’s announcement that he would scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade system.

“Throughout this election campaign, I told the people of Ontario that help is on its way. By looking around this room I can finally with confidence tell the people help is here,” he said to a burst of applause.

He did not, however, mention the hiring freeze in his speech, or the limits on discretionary spending ordered at the same time. Those include restrictions on out-of-province travel and a ban on providing food and drink for staff meetings.

A spokeswoman for Ford said he had bought pizza for the caucus Tuesday out of his own pocket.