The federal government announced it has cut 10,980 public-sector jobs since March as the Conservatives ended the week with a much more hawkish fiscal message than they had delivered just a few days earlier.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement revealed for the first time how the government’s promise to cut 19,200 jobs over three years would be spread out across federal departments, with Public Safety, the Canada Revenue Agency and Human Resources and Skills Development to be the hardest hit. The government also said Friday that of the jobs eliminated so far, 7,500 were achieved through attrition rather than direct layoffs.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, meanwhile, said he still plans to balance the books before the next federal election, currently scheduled for October, 2015.
It all added up to a much more aggressive message from Ottawa on the importance of spending cuts and erasing the deficit than it delivered Tuesday, when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released his fall fiscal update.
That announcement pushed back the target for erasing the deficit to 2016-17, and Mr. Flaherty said balanced budgets “are not an end in themselves,” suggesting the government would be satisfied with coming close to balance before returning to the polls.
In an interview Friday, Mr. Clement touted the virtues of “a leaner, more affordable government.”
“We think that’s how we’ll get to a balanced budget,” he said.
The minister said 70 per cent of the cuts are in “overhead” areas like consolidating human resources, financial services and information technology. “We have preserved core services,” he said.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has questioned those claims, noting that spending trends suggest it is direct services that are being cut most.
The Canada Border Services Agency is losing 1,300 jobs, according to the Customs and Immigration Union. Jean-Pierre Fortin, the union’s president, said the job losses have already forced border agents to cut down on the number of container inspections they do at major ports.
Federal union leaders and the Opposition NDP took issue with the tone of Mr. Clement’s news release on job cuts. “I don’t think it’s anything to brag about,” NDP MP Peggy Nash said.
Robyn Benson, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, issued a statement saying it is “shocking to hear a government taking pride in having eliminated 11,000 good jobs from the economy and leaving so many families facing an uncertain future.”
TOP-FIVE DEPARTMENTS THAT WILL LOSE FULL-TIME JOBS
The government plans to cut $5.2 billion in departmental spending and eliminate 19,200 federal positions. Here are the top-five departments by number of full-time job reductions over a three-year roll out period.
- Public Safety 3,273
- Canada Revenue Agency 3,008
- Human Resources and Skills Development 2,008
- National Defence 1,621
- Health 1,416
with a report from Kim Mackrael