Federal budget 2016: Public servants hope budget brings end to job cuts
Alternative budget report: Keeping Liberal promises will require more public servants
After several years of watching the federal public service shrink, government workers and their unions hope today's budget will include new programs that translate into new hiring.
The Liberal government promises include tens of billions in spending on infrastructure projects, new employment programs, improvements to the auditing functions of the Canada Revenue Agency and better food inspection processes.
All those increased services will require federal workers.
"Given the cuts and given the Liberal promises, just common sense suggests there's no way they can fulfill some of those promises adequately without adding more people," said Howie West, author of an alternative budget report, The State of Federal Services and How to Fix Them, for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
West is also the work and reorganization officer with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. He recently cross-referenced the Liberal election promises with other federal reports.
According to the latest federal reports on plans and priorities, several federal departments are still slated to cut, although these projections still reflect the former, Conservative government's plans.
"When you look over the years from 2016 to 2017, in fact many departments are still on a downward slope as far as staffing goes, which absolutely doesn't jibe with the Liberal promises. There's no way they can do some of the stuff they want without more staff," said West. "That's just basic math. If there aren't enough people to provide the service, more calls will go unanswered."
Watching for sick leave plans in budget
West's report notes that more than 25,000 jobs were cut from the core public service and agencies between 2011 and 2015 under the previous government.
Current Treasury Board President Scott Brison has tried to take a new tone with the bureaucracy since the Liberals took office last fall.
To that end, Brison has already announced the repeal of the changes the previous Conservative government made to the Public Service Labour Relations Act. Those changes aimed to replace the sick leave program for federal workers — a move seen as a violation of their collective bargaining rights.
But now, the Liberals need to find the $900 million dollars the Conservatives projected the new sick leave plan would save.
"We will seek to modernize sick leave benefits with the public servants in a way that is fair," said Brison.
Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose has said this reversal would be a costly mistake for a government already facing a fiscal crunch.