Canada’s new prime minister pledges to review sick leave plans

By on 20/10/2015

Controversial plans to change sick leave arrangements for Canada’s public servants are set to be reviewed by the country’s new prime minister, who has pledged to “restore respect for” government workers.

Canada’s Liberal Party decisively won yesterday’s general election, ending nearly a decade of Conservative rule. In an open letter to public servants, its leader, 43-year-old Justin Trudeau wrote on 25 September that his government would look again at plans by the previous Stephen Harper-led government to reform public sector sick leave.

According to the previous government’s proposals, the number of annual sick days a year would be reduced from 15 to six days, and much of the 15m days of banked unused sick leave abolished. Thirteen of the 17 federal unions are seeking an injunction to stop the government from invoking powers it gave itself in omnibus budget Bill C-59 to unilaterally impose a new sick-leave agreement.

Trudeau said in his letter that “the Harper Conservatives have not justified why they plan to make changes to public sector sick leave” and that his government “would review the bargaining mandate.”

He said that “responsible government must respect the union negotiation process and finalise its financial plans upon completion of negotiations – not at the beginning”, adding that his party “is committed to bargaining in good faith with public sector unions” and to “supporting and protecting workers’ rights.”

Harper, who also wrote an open letter to public servants before the election, said the “current, antiquated sick leave system is failing everyone,” and that his government’s goal was to reach agreements with unions that are “fair and reasonable for both employees and taxpayers.”

Trudeau further wrote that “respect and trust for our public servants by the federal government has never been so low” and that “it is time to restore trust in – and respect for – our public servants.”

He said his government would create the post of chief science officer, “whose mandate will include ensuring that government science is freely available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are appropriately considered when the government makes decisions.”

Government science should be consolidated and be made available to the public through a central portal, he wrote.

He said his party is “committed to revoking the rules and regulations that muzzle government scientists”, he said he would “allow them to speak freely about their work”, albeit with “limited and publicly-stated exceptions.”

He pledged to immediately restore the mandatory long-form census and to make Canada’s national statistics agency Statistics Canada fully independent, in order to ensure “evidence-based decision-making.”

Under Trudeau’s watch, a “significant overhaul of the Canada Revenue Agency” will be introduced, including increased efforts to combat international tax evasion, he wrote.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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