Toronto Star

Harper’s budget plan doesn’t add up, watchdog says
Toronto Star

The federal government’s plan to cut $6.8 billion in spending over five years isn’t achievable without major service and program cuts, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says.

“Without significant reductions in the overall employment compliment and without significant program service-related reductions I don’t see how they achieve this kind of restraint,” Page told the Star on Thursday after releasing a report on whether an operating budget freeze will meet the government’s target.

When Page’s office went to the Harper government to request details on how it plans to find these significant savings, the government refused to cooperate, even though the office was created by the Conservatives to review spending promises, among other things.

The Treasury Board has stated it has a public service attrition target of 11,000 full-time positions per year, but Page’s office discovered that the other departments are expected to reduce employment by only 1,000 full-time staff members over three years. There about 216,045 federal public servants.

Complicating the problem is that Ottawa has signed contracts with public sector unions for salary increases of about 5.3 per cent over the next three years. But even if 11,000 public servants did leave each year, the strategy would yield about $715 million a year — well short of the $1.8 billion needed, Page said.