Clement prepared for difficult Treasury Board post

Tony Clement says he is committed to helping produce a balanced budget by 2014-15, but said how costs will be trimmed will only be clear after a spending review in the next year.

The new head of the Treasury Board said he is committed to helping produce a balanced budget by 2014-15, but said how the government will trim costs will only be clear after a spending review in the next year.

Former Industry Minister Tony Clement was named President of the Treasury Board on Wednesday, and takes over from Stockwell Day, who did not seek re-election in the last campaign.

Clement will be tasked with finding ways to aid the government in eliminating the deficit.

He said the balancing act will be to find savings while also providing services that Canadians expect.

Finding billions of dollars in savings without reducing services is likely to be a difficult task, but Clement has a history of handling difficult portfolios and is seen as one of the most competent members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet.

The Conservatives have committed to a Strategic and Operation Review of all government services, to be completed in the next year, a review Clement said will "put us on track" toward a balanced budget.

Under Day, the federal government has made cuts in the federal public service mostly through attrition and retirements. The Conservative government says it anticipates as many as 80,000 public servants are expected to retire within the next five years.

But federal public service unions have expressed concern the government won't be able to reduce the public service without significant cuts to programs and services. And since the Conservatives won a majority, unions say they worry about deeper cuts to come, particularly in the Ottawa region where many public servants work.

Public Service Alliance of Canada President John Gordon said after the Conservatives won a majority government, he was bracing for the worst.

"Now that they have the majority they've been seeking really for quite a long time now, they can just go through and push their agenda," Gordon said.

Attrition preferred method to cuts

Clement said he needs some time to be properly briefed on the issues in the department.

"I'll get briefed on all facets of options available to us," said Clement. "I'm not here to announce anything, I'm here to say I'm here on the job."

He did acknowledge cutting public service jobs when people leave or retire is still the preferred option for the government.

"We did talk about attrition during the campaign, so that still is the buzzword de jour," he said.

Clement said since his appointment he has already begun to hear from constituents and groups about how best to do his job.

"Judging by Twitter and my emails today, there's a lot of people who are quite willing to give me unsolicited advice, so I'm sure that will continue," said Clement.