Province plans to cut civil service by 8% following release of KPMG fiscal review

The Manitoba government has released the results of a closely guarded review of the province's finances by consulting firm KPMG.

Manitoba government won’t release results of KPMG health-care review until May 31, 2018

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen released the contents of the KPMG review of the provincial government's finances on Tuesday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The Manitoba government released the results of a closely guarded review of the province's finances by consulting firm KPMG on Tuesday.

Among the recommendations in the report is the use of attrition to reduce the provincial workforce. On Tuesday, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said the province plans to cut its civil serivce by eight per cent over three years.

The province also said another KPMG review examining the performance of Manitoba's health system will be ready for release by May 31, 2018.

For months, the provincial government has said the information gathered for the fiscal review is owned by the company and it would be illegal to release it. Now the province says it is releasing all the results of the review, minus any information that could reveal personal information about government employees or proprietary information about KPMG's methods.

KPMG was tapped in 2016 to conduct the fiscal review, at a cost of $740,000. One of the key recommendations of the report was the use of attrition to achieve workforce reductions.

According to the province, there are approximately 14,900 civil servants in the Manitoba government, and every year about eight per cent, or 1,200 people, voluntarily leave the workforce through retirement or resignation.

"Every single time an employee departs, it creates an opportunity for government — if government is predisposed to look at it — does this create an opportunity to look for areas of co-operation with other departments? Is there an issue here of overlap or inefficiency?" said Friesen in a news conference Tuesday.

Provincial workforce has already shrunk by 5%

Friesen said the work of reducing the size of the civil service has already begun. Since taking power, Friesen said the Progressive Conservative government has shrunk the provincial workforce by five per cent.

Other recommendations in the fiscal review included reducing communications expenses and tax credits, justice reform, and asset management planning and rationalization.

​The province received the completed fiscal performance review in December, Friesen said.

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, questions how the province is going to keep its promise to maintain services when it isn't filling open positions.

"Cutting jobs, not filling vacancies, not having people there to be able to provide those services — in no way, shape or form is is that providing or protecting our services," she said.

Gawronsky also criticized the province's choice of KPMG to conduct the review. 

"This is a company that's well-known for its privatization schemes. We know by example, in the '90s, they were the ones that recommended that the Manitoba home-care program be privatized. They're the ones that recommended the privatization of Ontario Hydro," she said.

KPMG health report still under wraps

Tuesday's release didn't include the results of the KPMG review of the province's health system, which was awarded in a separate contract.

By next May, when the province said the report will be ready for release, many of the changes to the province's health system will have been carried out. When asked why the province is waiting to release the health report, Friesen said now is not the right time, as the health-care system is going through such significant changes.

"I question the value of dropping another 500-page report on the table and overlaying this significant process with that additional advice," he said.

The Manitoba government released the results of a closely guarded review of the province's finances by consulting firm KPMG on Tuesday. Among the recommendations in the report is the use of attrition to reduce the provincial workforce by eight per cent over three years. 1:25

"We have committed clearly, that at the end of this process, when that process is significantly implemented, Manitobans will be in possession of that health report, I would say by the spring."

Gawronsky questions Friesen's decision to not release the report now.

"I can go anywhere in Manitoba, and I have been over the last three months, and all I hear about is how disappointed, how worried, how upset Manitobans are that their health system is collapsing. They're scared of what's going to come, where's the service going to come from, and yet [the province is] going to hold on to a report until May because it's not in our best interests to read it. Kinda scary."

Last month, Premier Brian Pallister said he was trying to get the results of the KPMG health-care report released to the public.

That report and a report by Dr. David Peachey have been used by the province as justification for a major overhaul of the health-care system, including shutting some down emergency rooms in Winnipeg and amalgamating services in health regions across Manitoba.

In September, a study by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the University of Manitoba found inconsistent record-keeping and missing data made it impossible to determine what is driving overall hospitals costs in Manitoba. Many departments in health regions across the province didn't keep records on expenditures, staff levels or patient volumes.

The province said that doesn't undermine the validity of the KPMG health-care report, because the two studies looked at different time periods and different parameters.

The province said a new organization called Shared Health Services Manitoba, created following recommendations in the KPMG and Peachey reports, will improve consistency of record-keeping across the regions.

With files from Sean Kavanagh and Jacques Marcoux