More public sector layoffs to come, Clement warns

It's too early into the government's strategic review to decide what exactly will get cut, Treasury Board President Tony Clement told MPs Monday.
Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, appeared before a House committee Monday to answer questions about planned spending cuts. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Expect more government layoffs based on last year's strategic review, Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Monday.

That's outside of the savings the government expects to have by not replacing the roughly 11,000 civil servants who leave their jobs every year. And that's before they look at further cuts in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

On Monday, the Globe and Mail reported Public Works and Government Services Canada was laying off 700 staff over three years.

"I would say there are more [layoffs] coming, yes," Clement said after appearing at a House committee. "This was part of the 2010 strategic review, this is not part of the go-forward strategic and operating review."

He wouldn't say how many cuts to expect or which departments would be affected next.

"The strategic review has to go through a process of identifying potential layoffs and informing those individuals. I'm not going to do it by informing the media. The individuals in question should get the notice first," Clement said.

"I can't put a number on it until individuals are notified."

The head of one of the affected unions, the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, said the cuts could hit 285 workers this year. The employees being cut will have eight weeks before their jobs end.

"The Harper government has been planning it for a while. They lowered the GST by two per cent. They lowered corporate taxes," said Claude Poirier. "The result is they have a huge deficit they want to make up for by laying people off."

"In the end it's the Canadian public that's going to suffer," he said.

Clement told the House government operations committee that it's too early into the government's strategic review to decide what exactly will get cut after 2012. The government is looking for $4 billion in cuts, or about five per cent of its total budget, in order to balance the budget by 2014.

Recent media reports have also cited layoffs at the National Gallery of Canada as a result of the budget-cutting exercise.

But Clement says the government isn't yet at a stage where any decisions have been made for the next phase of the review. He says officials are still consulting with Canada's 67 federal departments and agencies.

"We're relying primarily on attrition," he said, adding he's been told about 11,000 people leave public service jobs every year.

"That's a good base from which to start."

NDP MP Nycole Turmel, a former public service union leader, said Clement is making government employees do the work for him.

"You're putting words in my mouth right now," Clement said.

"I think you'd be the most critical," if the government made its cuts without consulting its employees, he added.

"That would be reckless ... And that's not our government," Clement said.

Clement was appearing in front of a House committee to discuss the government's budget for the next year.

The appearance by Clement, who as Treasury Board president is like the chief operating officer for the government, gave opposition MPs the chance to question him on estimated spending through March 2012, and on how the government plans to balance its budget by 2014.

Clement has talked about looking to the civil service for ideas about streamlining and cutting programs. In a speech earlier this month, he said departments should look at a full range of options, including administrative efficiencies, business consolidation and user fees, although he later stepped back from the idea of levying fees.

"We have a chance to look critically at the programs and services we provide, and the operational and administrative methods with which we do it. We have a chance to gauge if we are delivering for Canadians in the best, most relevant and most cost efficient way possible," read his prepared remarks for the June 8 speech.

"We'll all need to ask fundamental questions about the programs and services we provide.... Should we still be doing this — and doing it in this way? Does this have to be delivered by this organization? Why does it cost as much as it does? Can we find savings? Is it achieving the expected results efficiently? Is this a government priority, and is it affordable during a period of fiscal restraint? Are we achieving value for money? These are some of the questions we must ask ourselves in making our determinations," he said.

LIVE BLOG: Tony Clement at government operations committee

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