Canadian public service headcount set to rise

By on 29/11/2022 | Updated on 29/11/2022
Photo August de Richelieu via Pexels

Canada’s public service headcount is expected to grow to 409,000 over the next five years – an increase of 18,000 personnel on 2021 figures, the country’s parliamentary budget officer has said.

In the government’s latest spending plans, Yves Giroux estimated that an extra C$2.3bn (US$1.7bn) was necessary to cover the salaries and benefits of employees in Canada’s growing bureaucracy. This would push the total wage bill to C$55bn (US$40.9bn) this year.

Since 2015, Canada has invested heavily in expanding its public service workforce, a trend that ramped up significantly with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Concentration of hiring in the last seven years has been notable at the Canada Revenue Agency, which has taken on 9,900 new recruits; Employment and Social Development Canada (8,500); the Public Health Agency of Canada (1,900); and Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (1,750).

In Canada’s autumn economic statement, the big winning departments in terms of budget for hiring included the Canada Border Services Agency, which will get C$137m (US$101m) to recruit and train additional border guards, and Veterans Affairs, which will get C$115m (US$85.5m) towards hiring new and retaining existing case managers. Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), meanwhile, is expected to recruit for 1,250 new positions aimed at reducing its backlogs.

Read more: ‘It’s called public service for a reason; you are serving something bigger than yourself’: meet Stephen Burt, chief data officer of Canada

According to Giroux, the Canadian public service headcount grew from 342,000 in 2015-2016 to 391,000 in 2020-2021. He added that since Justin Trudeau became prime minister in 2015, personnel spending had increased by an average of 6.7% a year.

Giroux said that all signs pointed to an effort by government to expand its capacity. “With the amounts that were announced in or before the fall economic statement, oh yes, they are growing the public service,” he said.

The Canadian government’s latest spending plans tabled by Treasury Board president Mona Fortier requests parliament’s approval for an additional C$21bn (US$15.6bn) – one of the largest budget increase requests aside from emergency spending during the pandemic.

Giroux said that government would spend C$2.25bn (US$1.67bn) over six years on improving service delivery, rather than reviewing the effectiveness of operations to trim costs. He added that it was likely that departments would not spend the money allocated to them and that they would claim it as a saving.

Read more: ‘We know service delays are unacceptable’: Trudeau launches taskforce to quicken Canadian government service delivery

Passport to progress

One of the Canadian government’s biggest current challenges is its passport processing backlog. Plans to further automate related processes were delayed due to the pandemic.

To help solve this and other digital challenges, Catherine Luelo, the government chief information officer, set out plans for the public service to recruit around 7,000 IT professionals.

In an interview with Global Government Forum published earlier this year, Luelo explained how government was accelerating digital transformation and touched on labour shortages. She said the country faced a “talent deficit… not just for government technology roles, but for all technology roles”.

Read more: Pick up the pace: CIO Catherine Luelo on accelerating Canada’s digital journey

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

One Comment

  1. Loana Villa says:

    Those are a portion of the jobs that the Harper Gvt cut in 2012 !

    The backlog in gvt services is due to that massive layout !

    Journalists should put in perspective what the true reality is !

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