Canadian government spending cuts being ‘rushed’, warns union

By on 23/08/2023 | Updated on 23/08/2023
A picture of Canadian dollar coins and notes.
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The Canadian government has been warned that plans to cut government spending by as much as C$15bn (US$11bn) are being rushed and could hit services for citizens.

In response to reports that departments across government have been tasked with identifying savings by 2 October, Chris Aylward, the president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) trade union that represents public servants, said the government should pause plans to cut spending “until it has conducted a whole-of-government review of staffing and service needs”.

The 2023 Canadian budget proposed a number of spending reductions, including cuts of around 15% of consulting spending, intended to save C$7.1bn (US$5.2bn) as well as a 3% reduction of departmental spending, starting in 2024-25, and intended to save at least C$7bn, with Crown corporations expected to find a further C$1bn (US$738m).

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To implement this programme, Treasury Board president Anita Anand – who took up the post following a cabinet reshuffle in July – wrote to all federal cabinet ministers to ask that they submit plans for spending cuts by 2 October.

The Globe and Mail reported that Anand told colleagues that said she was “seeking your support to develop proposals to achieve these targets”, adding: “In particular, organisations should review their programming to identify where there might be duplication, programmes with lower value for money, or programmes that do not address top priorities of the government.”

Anand said savings plans would need to be sustainable and not put additional pressure on service delivery, with each cabinet minister required to personally approve each proposed cut.

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“Through this exercise, we are collectively working to refocus our existing and future spending. To ensure the efficient use of Canadians’ tax dollars, I hope that similar fiscal prudence will be applied when seeking new funding,” Anand wrote in the letter.

In response to Anand’s letter, Aylward said that PSAC hasn’t been consulted on spending plans since the cuts were first proposed in the Budget.

The 2 October deadline meant cuts were being rushed, Aylward warned. “As we said when the Budget was released, you can’t cut C$15 billion in public service budgets without cutting services to Canadians.”

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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