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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty leaves an Ottawa news conference after announcing measures to support for small businesses on Oct. 4, 2011. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty leaves an Ottawa news conference after announcing measures to support for small businesses on Oct. 4, 2011. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)

Flaherty sings praises of career in (shrinking) public service Add to ...

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is urging young business students to enter the public service – even as he prepares for a 2012 federal budget that has bureaucrats across the country nervously bracing for a new wave of spending cuts.

In a break from his usual speeches, Mr. Flaherty spoke personally about why public service makes him happier than a higher paying private-sector job ever could.

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“If money was all that mattered to me, I would still be working as a lawyer in downtown Toronto,” he said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks delivered to students of the Richard Ivey School of Business at London’s University of Western Ontario.

“Public service is good for you. It’s unlike any other career. It features long hours, relatively lower rates of pay than comparable positions on Bay Street, and it is often decades before you can witness the positive results of your labour. Some of you might then ask: ‘If the hours are long and the pay low, why would I do it?’ The answer is simple: It is the most satisfying and personally enriching career you will ever find.”

While Mr. Flaherty said his message applies to working in the civil service, he said public service also includes holding public office, working for community groups and charities or volunteering with church groups or minor sports teams.

The minister’s speech hints at the awkward balance faced by the federal government. Before the recession hit, the main concern of senior officials was recruiting new talent to replace the wave of retiring baby boomers. Now with the focus on restraint, officials are looking for jobs that can remain vacant when a worker retires.

Morale in the lower ranks of the public service will hardly be helped by the government’s latest news, which is that senior executives will be rewarded in bonuses based on how many spending cuts they can find for Mr. Flaherty’s 2012 budget.

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