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With NDP backing, Ontario Liberals survive confidence motion

Premier Dalton McGuinty takes to the stage after winning the provincial election at campaign headquarters in Ottawa, Thursday October 6, 2011.

Fred Chartrand/THE CANADIAN PRESS/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

The minority Liberal government in Ontario survived its first confidence motion, thanks to the widely-expected support of the New Democrats.

The Speech from the Throne setting out the government's priorities passed in the legislature on Wednesday, with 69 MPPs voting in favour of it and all 37 Progressive Conservatives voting against it.

The New Democrats also aligned themselves with the Liberals in voting against the Tories' amendment to the Throne Speech, which would have imposed a mandatory wage freeze on doctors, nurses, teachers and other public-sector workers who bargain collectively.

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Ontario is "witnessing a bit of history," said Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is heading the province's first minority government in 25 years. "While we necessarily have our partisan differences here inside the legislature, there is a general expectation on the part of Ontarians that we will find common ground and find a way to move things forward that serve their greater interests," he said at a news conference following the vote.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak told reporters he is not going to give up on trying to impose a mandatory wage freeze for the province's 750,000 public sector workers who bargain collectively. He noted that the McGuinty government has already frozen the wages of other non-unionized public-sector workers.

A wage freeze for other public sector workers would help the province reduce spending by $2-billion a year, at a time when it is facing a projected deficit of $16-billion this year, Mr. Hudak said.

"Those [workers]who are in unions are getting wage increases like the recession never happened and like we weren't in a $16-billion hole," he said.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said her party voted with the Liberals because Mr. McGuinty has pledged to work with opposition members.

"That gave us a glimmer of hope," Ms. Horwath told reporters. She added that she has not seen much evidence of the Liberals setting aside their partisan differences. But instead of bringing down the government, she is willing to take a wait-and-see approach.

"We're not going to play games," she said.

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A Throne Speech is considered a confidence motion, meaning it theoretically could have brought down the government if both the Tories and NDP did not support it. Together, the Tories and NDP have 54 of the legislature's 107 seats, one more than the Liberals.

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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