The Conservative government’s switch from stimulus to austerity shed more than 25,000 public service jobs over the past three years, a significant overshoot of its original target.
The 2012 budget promised to eliminate 19,200 jobs over three years and the federal Treasury Board’s self-assessment said the end result of those budget cuts was the elimination of 19,900 positions, just slightly above the original target.
Population of the federal public service
SOURCE: Treasury Board of Canada
Pollster Nik Nanos said the Conservatives have successfully conditioned the public to expect ongoing spending cuts and the fact that they are spread out across all departments and all parts of the country makes it harder for reductions to become controversial.
“The Conservatives have benefited by not doing targeted cuts, but looking at across-the-board cuts to the size of the public service, by talking about it all the time and desensitizing people,” he said, noting that from a public policy perspective it might be better to cut deeply in some places in order to spare more successful programs. “The risk [of across-the-board cuts] is that there’s just a broader compromise in terms of what’s delivered to Canadians.”
The PBO has sent letters, Access to Information requests and even went to Federal Court to gain insight into where the cuts landed, all for naught.
“The government has never actually said and measured and stated how this reduction is going to affect the service level,” said Mostafa Askari, the assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer. “We don’t have that information.”
Still, through data released by Treasury Board, it is possible to see that National Defence, Employment and Social Development Canada, Public Works, Agriculture Canada and Statistics Canada are among the departments that took the biggest staffing hits.
Foreign Affairs (by taking over the Canadian International Development Agency), Citizenship and Immigration and Communications Security Establishment Canada were among the lucky few to see their ranks grow.
Using similar data from Statistics Canada, it is also possible to see how Ottawa has spread the cuts geographically. The data shows Ottawa has been relatively even-handed. In terms of percentage change between 2011 and 2013, Alberta was hit the hardest with a 10 per cent reduction, while Prince Edward Island – which is home to the federal department of Veterans Affairs – only received a four per cent reduction. Most provinces were close to the eight per cent national average for staffing cuts during that period.
SOURCE: Statistics CanadaReport Typo/Error
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