Should Harper make public service cuts, as planned?
Today, with taxes the way they are, it’s nearly impossible to defend public services in Canada.
Everyone wants their parks, swimming pools and community ice rinks, but we don’t want to pay for them, especially when there’s a nagging perception that anything government-run is a cash-haemorrhaging waste.
But no matter: Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have their majority government now, and they’ve made it clear public department cuts are a priority. Should they go ahead with them, though?
Harper, as you know (or maybe you don’t; only 61 per cent of us voted Monday), proposed overhauling government service spending in his March budget, the agenda that never passed ahead of this latest federal election.
In the budget, a review of all public level spending was called for, with $11 billion in cuts recommended over the next four years. Two months ago, Jack Layton and the now-humbled Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe did not allow the provision to pass.
Yet, as Ignatieff and Duceppe have gone the way of Michael and Carole Middleton’s dignity, the Tories now have the power to push through their proposed rollbacks.
Back to that first point above, about government-run departments perhaps not being the most efficient mechanisms. This is undoubtedly the perception of public workers; it may not be right, it may not be fair, but it’s definitely true.
Though is it to the point that cuts, even layoffs, need to be made? Government work – and, I’m sure, many employees of such sectors would concede this – may not be as streamlined as some private companies, but nobody wants to see anyone losing their job.
Of the following, what should Stephen Harper do re: public service budget cuts – reduce/freeze salaries, eliminate positions or reverse the planned cuts altogether?
By Jason Buckland, MSN Money
*Follow Jason on Twitter here.
Posted by: lee gardner | May 4, 2021 12:30:55 PM
I also work for the government, I agree with duane there are many other places to trim , how about Mr. Harper and his whole cabinet for starters take a 30 % pay reduction for term. Hmmm ok maybe I'm dreaming, however my last pay raise was over 7 years ago and we just fought for a 3 % increase doesn,t seem right? I make under 60 000 a year and with all my overtime the government collects 30% Hmmm ?? Maybe I should go into politcs , I do pick up garbage everyday .
Posted by: SG | May 4, 2021 12:33:25 PM
Ok, first, bashing the politicians has actually never gotten us anywhere, and reading through most of these responses to teh article simply proves this further. If you really want to sovle the problem, the first step is to identify the "actual" problem or problems in the first place. The systemic waste of government has long since been a Liberal virtue, and unfortuneatley passed through the generations and through the parties. Stop blaming public employees for waste, and stop labelling them as lazy. If it wasn't for the fact that private sector corporations are a large cause of wasted spending, we wouldn't need serious cutbacks. Here is a list of reasonable "corrections" to alleviate some of the fiscal irresponsability of government and corporations alike.
1. Wage freeze across the board for all public sector employees in Canada, with the exception of inflation. (Government causes inflation, they need to deal with it, not the tax payers)
2. Roll back wages in public sector for all top management employees. The income disparity between workers and their respective managers is ludicrously high.
3. Cut paper use down in all public sector offices - most have electronic systems and continue to print and waste paper.
4. Cut back on corporate tax breaks - they are not passed on to the consumer or the emplyees - why is it becoming such a "bad thing" to force a company to dig into their own pockets/profits. Since when do we allow the protection of their profits for business?
4. Cut IMPORTS as much as possible - this nation relies far too heavily on imports
5. Fine companies excessive amounts for breaching environmental laws, and any other laws. Most companies account for the piddly little fines imposed on them as an operational cost, and then return it to the government for a tax break.
6. Reduction in immigration - educate the fine citizens of this nation first! Employ the people of the nation first.
7. Cut foreign aid and provide instead "workers" to help.
8. Prize freeze on all products for a period of 5 years. Wage increases ismply mean price increases which equates to less value for a consumer, more taxes for government and more profits for corporations.
9. Force corporations to manufacture within Canada, as much as is reasonable, and remove imported products of the same make. Thsi will create jobs, and industry.
10. DO NOT BAIL OUT CORPORATIONS - if their management elects to run the company into the ground, then so be it - they fail. Why is it my problem that GM provides a poor quality vehicle at an outragues, unaffordable price? This is GM's problem, and if it were up to me, I would have let them close, then maybe they would be better suited to listen to the people who buy their products. Ok enough about GM.
11. A complete system overhaul of the public safety net of Welfare, and Employment Insurance
12. Cut ALL OIL imports, remove Canada from OPEC, and refine our own oil here. No more selling it to the U.S, just to buy it back at an inflated price.
13. Actually make an attempt to prohibit price gouging by corporations, standardizing goods and services across Canada.
14. Increase the value of the Canadian dollar on teh world market. For retailers, your time has come, you have been overcharging Canadians for long enough. Time to close up shop, or lose it, or simply price fairly.
15, Removal of the Senate - this is a pointless part of Canadian Government with nothing more than figurehead value.
This list could go on and on and on and on, but in Canada, who's going to listen, moreso, who will actually do a dam thing about what the people actually want and need. If none of you have realized by now that our government is by the U.S. and the Corporations, you are certainly, and exessively naive.
Posted by: Jim Mayhew | May 4, 2021 12:43:37 PM
We can no longer carry the bloated government service. We need to hire and promote department managers who meet their budgets and cut costs. We need to review and change the pensions, maternity leave, and other policies that are so much more generous than the private sector. Only then will we be able to maintain our existing level of service.
Posted by: Paranormal Freak | May 4, 2021 12:44:36 PM
YES, CUT THE JOBS. CUT THE WAGES. LESS JOBS, MORE PEOPLE GO ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. LESS JOBS LESS INCOME TAXES TO COLLECT AND WITH FAMILIES OF 4 OR 6 THEN THEY GET GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE MONEY. CUT EVERYTHING INCLUDING COPS, NURSES, DOCTORS, GOVERNMENT RUN OFFICES SO THAT ALL THOSE BUILDINGS WILL BE EMPTIED OUT. LESS INCOME TAXES TO COLLECT. JUST GIVE MORE SUBSIDIES TO PRIVATE CORPORATIONS. GIVE THEM MORE TAX CUT INCENTIVES. THAT WAY, THE PRIVATE COMPANIES MAKE MORE MONEY AND PAY LESS TAXES. THEN WE CAN ALSO CUT MP SALARIES, COUNCILORS, MMP SALARIES, PROVINCIAL PREMIER SALARIES AND EVENTUALLY, MR. HARPER'S SALARY TOO CAPPED AT $175,000. HE SHOULD ALSO ELIMINATE WASTE BY NOT HAVING TOO MUCH PERKS AND BODYGUARDS BECAUSE THAT COST MONEY TOO. ALSO GIVE A LOT OF TAX SUBSIDIES TO PRIVATE CORPORATIONS LIKE ESSO, SHELL, AND OTHER OIL COMPANIES FROM ALBERTA. THE GOVERNMENT ALREADY DOES THAT. THAT WAY THOSE GREEDY BASTARDS MAKE MORE MONEY AND PROFIT THAN OPEC. THAT'S THE WAY TO RUN THE COUNTRY. CUT CUT CUT FROM PUBLIC SERVICES AND GOVERNMENT OFFICES AND GIVE GIVE GIVE TO THOSE REALLY FILTHY WEALTHY RICH OIL COMPANIES.
Posted by: Gulp | May 4, 2021 12:50:16 PM
You are right about #1, #5, #10 and #15. But every other comment you make is exactly wrong!! Have you ever taken say a first or second year university economics course?? I don't say it to be mean or smug. But I really do think that if you formally studied some economics you'd be able to have more informed opinions about public matters. Not meaning to be cruel...just saying.
Seriously, get a book like Economics for Dummies. It will take only 2-3 days to get through but will give you a good start in truly understanding why things work the way they do.
It's not your fault...Economics classes should be a mandatory part of high school curriculum!!!
Posted by: claudia from ottawa | May 4, 2021 1:19:07 PM
I agree with cutting public service but only as people retire - don't hire new. When the fishermen on the cost lost jobs "nobody in public sector complained". When the farmers lost money during the "BSE" scare "public sector didn't complain" and remember the farmers are facing flooding and cannot at this time get on the fields to plant. And when the auto-industry lost jobs " those same public service personel didn't complain". Everybody faces lay-offs at one time or another, did the public service cry out when NORTEL went under of course not. Our society is overwhelmed with administration that have parties, go to and stay at cushy places for meetings and even have lunches provided for the on the tax payers time. It is time to get over it - the recession is here and "EVERYONE" must sacrifice so why not public service.
Posted by: doc2 help alberta | May 4, 2021 1:32:37 PM
Process(management) has become king over product and when we figure that out it will likely be too late. Some systems need product--no nurse, pharmacist, or lab tech would have a job without a heart surgeon or anesthesiolgist. No plane would fly without a pilot! Life could go on without five year plans and stakeholder inclusion! The bullshit has gone too far. Management is luxury--product is necessary.In 25 years the money and credit will run out and all the manger with business suits and power suits won't remone and appendis, do a C/section or fedd a nation. Remember Socrates--when his prediction of society failure came to pass the swine executed him!
Posted by: binder dundat | May 4, 2021 1:32:55 PM
cut what we dont need, too much money is being squandered by governments.
Posted by: george | May 4, 2021 1:35:02 PM
Yes lets follow the American Republican model, it's worked so well for them over the past decade. Go after the middle class blue collar well paying union jobs. Then once those people are living on less use their anger as leverage to go after the middle class public service workers. Then as you cut corporate taxes, increasing the bottom line of the multi-nationals who no longer have any concern for the people of Canada, and your tax revenue shrinks, use the rising deficit to get the public to agree to cut our govt. programs that mostly benifet the middle class and poor. Voila you have a pre WW1 society of the rich and poor, little or no health care, EI etc unless you can pay for it etc.
Posted by: izatt | May 4, 2021 1:35:56 PM
i agree with roger dodger above with 23 yrs. of hospital employment what i have seen is almost criminal to us the the canadian tax-payers . the government keeps saying that health care is uunsustainable yet just in waste from food, linin. supplies from bandages to toothpaste to medications, are a huge waste more on the floor than in the patient . nurses stock piling linen from diapers to gowns ,sheets, pillow cases. i could go on and on and of course not enough house-keepers to properly clean so people do not get infections and end up having to re-enter the hospital sicker than the first time they came in . but like above sh--t runs down hill so cut the lowest paid ones at the bottom which is what happened and guess what hospitals are full of infections. housekeepers are working 2 to 3 areas and nothing is working properly cause it is all hidden , i could go on for ever but i have to go to work .
Posted by: Trevor Davies | May 4, 2021 1:46:04 PM
Difficult situation. Public jobs typically do an excellent job of distributing livable wages across a broad spectrum of society. These wages are most often returned to the local communities in which the individual lives which supports private sector business. During the major recessions of capitalism we've seen massive investments into public infrastructures, and public services as a means of turning the economy around. Canada's own economic action plan was an example of such a move. On a positive note about Harper - by adopting such an economic plan he showed the ability to move away from neo-liberal economics in times of crises. Personally not a fan of Harper and his economic priorities, but you have to acknowledge the good with the bad.
I believe a healthy economy includes a balance of private and public jobs/services. We should not fight about either-or, but decide which services should be best provided by the public for the public, and which services beneift from a competeive private sector. This is a very complex debate as since the rise of right wing eonomic priorities we've seen the greatest inequality between the rich and the poor in the history of capitalism. I don't want to see communism, and I don't want to see runaway capitalism. Let us find a healthy middle ground.
Posted by: SG | May 4, 2021 1:59:22 PM
If by reading a book on economics is what you are suggesting, imagine the impact a government could actually have if they read the same book. I appreciate that not everthing is quite as cut and dry as I had posted, however though, these are options that are never tabled. Whether that be because of a lack of economical know how or just plain ignorance really is the question. I am not sure, in your remarks, where economical measures could/wouldn't apply to each of the points listed. This country economically or not relies far too heavily on imported goods, and we are now exporting the food right off our own tables to other countries, which is driving costs for many of our goods through the roof. Economics is simply math, however the math that is imposed by the governments of this nation have been purely dedicated to the benefit, not the detriment, of the corporations. Economics is a principle, and many principles can be changed. The economics emplyed today mean continuing to support inneficiency, corporatism, and beginning of the end of the Western Civilization as we have come to know it. there are a multitude of options available, just no guts to go through with it.
Posted by: Bob | May 4, 2021 2:00:36 PM
re: roger dodger
I bet you'll be the first to complain when your in the hospital about lack of care from nurses, or when your grand children are stuck in a class with 35 other students getting very little out of their education.
Posted by: Bobby Oh No | May 4, 2021 2:11:50 PM
Yes,I think Harper should cut jobs,but only those fools who voted him in should pay the price.This man is a two-timer,he preach one thing and does the opposite,any yet the people put him back in power.Remember he will have to find Billions and billions of dollars to pay for the Jets,Jails and coperate give away.Well,I am sure Canadian are still living in a fantasy world,so if they can't wake up and smell the coffee,boy oh boy we better fasten our seatbelt,because we as tax payer will have to dig deeper into our wallets for the next four years.Right now the gas price is ridicolous,and the lower income family is feeling the pain at the pump.When will this Dictator stop and learn to Govern,he still has his job,so do you really think he cares about anyone else.Canada is a divided country ,and if the people are not united,this country will never go forward.
Posted by: MGM | May 4, 2021 2:15:12 PM
As I sit here and read the comments I wonder if some people understand that government has cut corporate taxes by 128 billion dollars over the last 10 years. So here we are now talking about cutting 11 billion dollars over the next 4 year through job cuts, retirement, reduced spending within departments. My personal tax rate is around 35%, where large corporation pay about 10%. It is time we have a fair taxation system. Do you realize how many jobs have to be cut or not replaced to achieve the 11 billion dollar savings with an average salary of 60,000.00 (184000 jobs). Who is going to pay the 35% tax rate to replace the lost revenue, you are, your tax rate will have to increase. You will end up paying more taxes and receiving less services. As the Harper government cuts away at your services you lose, think of your children, seniors, Medicare and your future
Posted by: SINGLE PARENT LOW INCOME | May 4, 2021 2:15:42 PM
I THINK THERE SHOULD DEFINATLY BE GOVERNMENT CUT BACKS. STARTING AT THE TOP . THE PEOPLE IN THE GOVERNMENT OFFICE IS WHERE HE SHOULD BE CUTTING BACK.
Posted by: Anne | May 4, 2021 2:21:01 PM
I wonder if Harper is going to look at the number of employees working in Ottawa parliament building or only those serving the public. there is no need to impose layoffsa but could accomplish some of this by attrition when employees retiring. I am sure that Harper is not freezing his wage or benefits even though he and his croonies make way to much compared to the average citizen or rather the foreigners hired to fill Canadian public service jobs when canadain born cannot get any job. Every time government wants to show power it nails the public servants who work hard unlike the members of parliament themselves who skate through on the backs of the tax payers and may not even be in parliament half the time and can receive a pension after 2 terms as an M.P. with a minimium of 8 years when many public servants have served 35 years or more. Hardly fare or equal. When the so called Hon. Prime Minister states he wants to work for all the people he needs to know that includes the public servants who have served the people and protected the Canadian people more than he will ever do. NO I AM NOT A PUBLIC SERVANT employee or spouse but a person who over the years have seen them sacrificed at every opportunity
Posted by: Frustrations in the Public Service | May 4, 2021 2:26:26 PM
As a federal public servant, I agree that cuts must be made. Cuts should be made to those senior managers that are not needed and there are several of them out there. Cuts should not be made to us workers who actually provide the services to Canadians...we are the under-paid and over-worked in this whole organization. I can tell you that as a professional employee in the government of Canada, I as well as most professional employees are under-paid as compared to our private counterparts. I have been offered time and time again from professional private companies a job at their organization at 25% more than I get paid working for the government. I turn it down however every time. The reason I turn it down is because even though I forgo a salary increase, I feel that I gain a better retirement (pension) and better benefits with the government of Canada. I also feel that I have less stress working for the government as I only have to work 37.5 hours a week, not 55+ hours that the private firms would have me work. It is all about life-work balance to me and I will gladly take a pay-freeze for two years, just don't touch my pension, benefits or work hours.
Posted by: Derek | May 4, 2021 2:26:34 PM
Half of the comments on here lump services provided by municipal or provincial levels in with federal government services. The federal government has nothing to do with teachers, nothing to do with hospitals, nothing to do with communicty centres, etc.
I do work for the federal government and like many in the private industry my wages were frozen during the recession and still remain frozen although the recession is over and private sector is getting raises and hiring. In my department we downsized over 50% during this same time period and Harper already had mandated over the past several years to find efficiencies. Realistically to find enough savings to come up with several billion dollars a year in savings will result in front line services likely being cut. I totally agree that their are inefficiencies that still exist in government and there are better ways to provide certain services, but there is always a cost involved, and not just in terms of federal government jobs. Are you prepared to loose accessibility to services (private sector delivers in terms of what the majority of their clients want, not to accomodate all canadian citizens like the federal government does which costs extra money)? Are you prepared to loose oversight on private sector industry? (we would be paying usage based fees on internet access right now otherwise)
As stated by others on this thread, there is waste at all levels of government, from management to front line workers, but for the most part those are now in the minority and most federal government workers are frustrated with working as hard as they can to see a small minority around them do little work for the same pay. This is common in all industry, private as well as public, it's just harder to get rid of people like this in the public sector.
Harper needs to identify set projects that would enable the federal government as a whole to be more efficient (run it like one giant company rather than fragmented departments as currently exist), find ways to share services between departments and reduce costs, reduce the amount spent on consulting that results in no impact or no change, and concentrate on making rule changes that make it easier to deal with the small minority of employees that do not perform to expected standards.
Posted by: Robin Taylor | May 4, 2021 2:31:28 PM
The Harper group has distinguished itself by being the most dishonest Canada has ever seen,we ca expect anything that we can imagine.Canada will be the shame of the free world