The 2010 Budget – Canada’s Economic Action Plan

March 05, 2010

CAPE President Claude Poirier, past President Bill Krause, Acting Executive Director Jean Ouellette, Research Officer Hélène Paris and legal counsel Peter Engelmann convened on March 4 to analyse the details of the 2010 budget as it became available. Hélène Paris, who attended the budget lock-up, helped guide the group to the more salient aspects of the proposed budget as it relates to the public service.

While there is speculation that there may be a salary freeze, the budget document is not so definitive in this regard. In fact, what it does say is that “…the Government will engage with public sector bargaining agents and will assess measures taken by other jurisdictions in Canada to ensure that total costs of compensation are reasonable…” CAPE intends to hold the employer to this.

CAPE is looking forward to full, clear, regular and transparent consultation with Stockwell Day as President of Treasury Board, and other senior ministers.“The Canadian government must make decisions based on input from representatives of public service employees – not just CEO’s of banks and right wing anti public service institutions such as the CD Howe Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business,” said CAPE President Claude Poirier. “Without input from its own employees it cannot possibly develop a fair and balanced approach to the management and compensation of its workforce.”

There is no question that the public service will experience a reduction in size - those employees leaving through natural attrition may not all necessarily be replaced – and CAPE’s concern in this is that the result will be greater workloads for federal government employees, with the related stress and threats to work – life balance.

While the budget will freeze the salaries of the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament and Senators for 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012 – 13, we do not believe that this will cause them any particular undue hardship.

As for the panic engendered by the C.D. Howe Institute report regarding public service pensions - the document released yesterday says “Employee pension and other benefits are not subject to the general operating budget freeze.”

However, given that they have stated (above) that Government will engage with public sector bargaining agents and will assess measures taken by other jurisdictions in Canada to ensure that total costs of compensation are reasonable – CAPE is concerned that increased pension contributions may well be considered by the employer as a tool to balance the salary increase obligations. It is CAPE’s view that salaries for professionals in the federal public service have never been competitive with the private sector and that total compensation including benefits, job security and pension plan make up for that in part – to compromise on any of these is to devalue the excellence of the federal public service as a whole.

“We are relieved that the government has chosen not to make an immediate and direct attack on the public service,” said CAPE President Claude Poirier. “But we cannot let down our guard – if we are not vigilant the employer may further abuse its legislative powers. We need to hold them to their commitment to work with bargaining agents to address the needs and impact on the federal public service of decreased spending.”