‘Strategic policy review’ in 2022 budget could lead to job cuts, warn civil service unions

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“For there to be a specific amount, it means they know exactly what they’re going to do.”

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Civil service unions say they are surprised by the figures for potential cuts in a “comprehensive strategic review” presented in the 2022 budget.

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The review aims to save money by examining the effectiveness of government programs and operations. The government projects savings of $6 billion over five years and $3 billion a year by 2026-27, according to budget documents.

“It is very concerning for the PSAC to see this. That there is a specific amount suggests they know exactly what they will be doing,” said Chris Aylward, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which has 225,000 members, including 165,000 workers in the labor force. federal public sector.

Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which has more than 60,000 members, said she was also surprised to see the numbers.

“I would like to know where these figures come from. Hopefully that will come from moving to a hybrid work model as we will need less real estate and less flying (travel) as more things can be done virtually,” she said.

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“Coming out of a pandemic and knowing we had to cut back was expected. Not seeing them bet on a certain amount of money.

For Aylward and Carr, the term “strategic review” was reminiscent of the “steamlining” of the public service during the years of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

“The last time a strategic review happened was under the Harper government, and they just took a cut without looking at the ‘strategic’ part,” Carr said.

The federal public service had about 283,000 workers in 2010, declining to just over 257,000 in 2015, when the Harper Conservatives were defeated by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. In 2021, the federal public service had more than 319,000 people.

In the post-pandemic world, there are certainly savings in some areas, Aylward said. The budget mentions real estate, travel and increased digital service delivery as lessons learned during the pandemic.

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“It’s designed as a way to create savings, but we’ll keep a close eye on it,” he said. “If they think they’re going to put the cost of the pandemic on our members, they’re definitely wrong.”

The budget, released on Thursday, says the government “remains committed to rolling back special COVID-related measures and normalizing the overall level of program spending.”

A strategic review was also promised in the Liberal election platform last fall. However, “unlike past exercises which were driven by savings or deficit reduction goals,” the review would be an “ongoing process” to examine the performance of every major program and policy, according to the platform.

The strategic review will be led by Treasury Board President Mona Fortier. It will review previously announced spending plans to “ensure programs are responsive to changing circumstances, including a stronger-than-expected economic recovery,” according to the budget.

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The will be two parts to the exam. The first will assess the effectiveness of the program against the government’s top priorities for boosting economic growth, inclusion and tackling climate change.

The second stream will identify opportunities to save and reallocate resources to adapt government programs and operations to a new post-pandemic reality, according to the budget.

An update is expected in the fall 2022 economic and fiscal update and another in the 2023 budget.

Carr says the 2022 budget shows the government has recognized that in some cases it needs to spend money to earn more revenue. New tax fairness measures, for example, invest in the Canada Revenue Agency to target tax avoidance. According to budget figures, the measures are expected to help recover $2.3 billion in revenue and collect $5 billion in taxes that have been assessed but remain unpaid over five years.

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“We’re a willing partner to help figure out what we can do to help,” Carr said.

Conrad Winn, a political science professor at Carleton University, said in some ways the economy faces its most dangerous situation since World War II.

“Inflation will make the poor poorer, and the young poorer and the homeowners richer,” he said.

“I don’t know if the government will cut jobs, but public sector wages will have a huge problem keeping up with inflation. The private sector has the ability to raise prices. The public sector does not have the same profitability.

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