Ontario says to save up to C$1.5 bln under pension agreements
* Three plans agree to freeze on contribution rates
* Balanced budget by 2017-18 still planned
* McGuinty rules out federal Liberal leadership bid
* Duncan is considering run for Ontario Liberal leader
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Ontario's minority Liberal government said on Tuesday it struck a deal with three major public-sector pension plans to freeze contribution rates, a move that could help eliminate its C$14.4 billion ($14.51 billion) deficit in five years.
The announcement may help ease concerns among investors and debt-rating agencies that Premier Dalton McGuinty's surprise resignation and his decision to halt the legislative session would stall the province's drive to tackle its budget shortfall.
Also on Tuesday, McGuinty scotched speculation that he was considering a bid to lead the federal Liberal Party. He told the Canadian Press he would not challenge Justin Trudeau, the charismatic son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the frontrunner to become the new leader of the country's oldest political party.
The agreements, signed with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Pension Plan, Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan and Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Pension Plan, will freeze contribution rates for five years, except in exceptional circumstances. Continued...