The Hill Times
by President Gary Corbett
"Canada’s Public Service: A Key Player in the Economic Recovery"
In February, the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service congratulated public service employees for planning and implementing the government’s economic stimulus measures “in a timely and efficient way.” Then, the Minister of Finance spent the summer extolling the professional and public oversight of Canada’s financial system, and its role in ensuring that Canadian financial institutions weathered the global financial crisis intact.
Yet, given all of the press around public service pensions, Canadians could be forgiven for thinking that Canada’s public service somehow caused the financial meltdown and ensuing recession. In reality however, nothing could be further from the truth, as we have learned from the tale of greed, speculation, and criminal mismanagement perpetrated by sub-prime mortgage lenders and other financial interests. Despite this, it is now workers, and especially public-service employees, who are seemingly being made to pay the price. In Canada and around the world, the same interests that caused the crisis are now insisting on government ‘exit strategies’ that slash public services and shrink public-sector payrolls.
Isn't it absurd that the financial titans who profited from driving the economy into the ditch continue to reap corporate tax cuts, while working Canadians suffer from high unemployment and stagnant earnings? Leaving aside the absurdity of it all, isn't it also highly questionable that there can actually be a broad-based and lasting economic recovery if workers and their families are left behind? The economic stimulus measures adopted in the United States and Canada have kick-started economic growth, but in the rush to implement austerity measures, the recovery has already begun to run out of steam. Canada’s private banks have begun to lower growth forecasts for next year, and the OECD foresees a new era of sluggish growth over most of the next decade.
In its current economic vision, the government seems unable to imagine a recovery other than one built on further reducing public services and on ratcheting up anxiety among the employees who deliver them. If the government’s aim is to contract-out work to lower-paid casual workers with few benefits and little job protection, that would certainly represent the corporate model.
From our perspective, they’ve got it exactly backwards. What is needed are stable and decently-paying jobs in both the private and the public sectors. For sustainable prosperity, we need a broad-based recovery that focuses on preserving and creating quality jobs, and one that has public services at its heart. I'll say more in future issues of Perspective.