Ford talks jobs losses, kindergarten and Randy Hillier

Premier Doug Ford covered several subjects with reporters in Cambridge Wednesday, from potential job losses due to health care changes, to the future of a suspended MPP from the caucus and whether or not current kindergarten class sizes will remain.

JOB LOSSES

During the campaign, Ford promised there would no public sector job losses as a result of his plan to cut down provincial deficits, but on Wednesday acknowledged that won't be the case.

Some losses will be due to the planned merger of 20 provincial health agencies into one he said, but maintained front-line positions won't be affected.

"The people in the LIHNs (Local Integrated Health Networks), the CEOs that are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, the big silos they have there, the big executives, presidents and vice-presidents making outrageous amounts of money, we're going to take that money and put it to the front line," he said.

However, Ontario's ombudsman said workers in the provincial Child and Youth Advocate's office will lose their jobs in the spring.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board has also warned of job losses to after-school tutors and staff as a result of programming cuts, while service provider Kidsability in Kitchener says it's laying off support staff as a result of provincial autism programming changes.

KINDERGARTEN

With a major education announcement coming Friday, Ford was also asked about class sizes and teachers for kindergarten.

Ford was asked if he's committed to keeping kindergarten class sizes at the current cap of 23 children, but said he was deferring the answer to Education Minister Lisa Thompson.

"But I think the people of this province will be quite thrilled when they see the announcement," he said.

Ford gave a similar answer when asked about whether the government would replace some teachers with Early Childhood Educators.

"I think people will be quite happy with the minister's announcement, I think it's just thinking outside the box," he said.

RANDY HILLIER

The future of suspended PC MPP Randy Hillier also came up.

Hillier was suspended from caucus on February 20th after saying "yada, yada, yada" in the Legislature during a heated debate over the autism changes, accused of directing the comment towards an angry parent in the gallery.

Hillier has denied the accusation, saying it was towards a member of the NDP.

Regardless, Hillier was suspended by the party, but this week, said in a letter to constituents that it wasn't the real reason.

"The truth behind my removal however is not due to banter in the House, but long-standing tensions between me and Doug Ford’s most senior advisors (Dean French and Chris Froggatt) over what is expected of MPPs in the PC Caucus," he said in the letter.

"When I challenged the justification for suspension, backroom operatives provided me with a laundry list of questionable and childish grievances. 'I don't stand and clap for Ministers enough in the House, I wasn't actively retweeting or sharing Facebook posts about the government's activities,' and that I was 'putting my constituents and local stakeholders ahead of Party business.'"

Ford's office has denied the comments, but the premier said no firm decision has been made.

"I can't say I want him out, but I think we need a little time to run through a few things with Randy," he said. "I'm not going to discuss personnel issues, because it is a personnel issue in front of the world."

"I think Randy's a good man and we'll sit down and have a chat with him."

With files from the Canadian Press and CTV Kitchener