Robyn Benson, PSAC

Fudge-it 2013

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The Harper government appears to have a treat in store for us.

Going forward, the Government will continue to ensure that the public service is affordable, modern and high-performing. To help do this, it will examine overall employee compensation and pensioner benefits and will propose changes to the labour relations regime.

Hoo boy. And this is most of the detail we get from the book-length Budget 2013 document issued yesterday. The thicker the volume, the less information.

Here’s the rest of it:

The Government will work with its employees, bargaining agents and others to identify and implement improved practices and approaches following the lead of other public and private sector organizations. It will also explore other opportunities to further transform and modernize the public service to address the demands of the modern world and respond to the evolving needs of Canadians. These improvements will benefit both public servants and all Canadians.

In addition, the Government will be examining its human resources management practices and institutions in a number of areas, including disability and sick leave management, with a view to ensuring that public servants receive appropriate services that support a timely return to work.

The Government will be consulting with key stakeholders on these objectives over the coming months.

I’m a veteran of this sort of “consultation.” We’re bracing for it, believe me. And the reference to “pensioners” is disturbing, too—could this mean that retirees are about to have their health benefits cut?

But this is typical of the budget as a whole, which reads more like a Conservative political statement than a clear statement of proposed future spending. Everything is rosy and “on track.” It’s all business, all the time, with scarcely a mention of public services, other than various internal streamlining measures and some general chatter about “public-private partnerships.”

It’s not just detail that is missing. It’s vision.

I have no problem with balanced budgets. But a budget is supposed to set out a direction, not just aim at eventually eliminating a deficit. Where are the social needs of Canadians being addressed? There’s a workfare program for First Nations. There’s nothing for seniors struggling with poverty. In fact, there’s little specifically about poverty at all, unless you count a workfare program for First Nations, a few municipal infrastructure initiatives, and further (welcome) funding for housing homeless people with mental illness. Nothing to help university and college students cope with rising tuition costs. Nothing for childcare.

And the fate of the federal public service upon which Canadians depend? You saw it all, above. “Transform.” “Modernize.” “Respond to evolving needs.” What does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine. But we’d better be prepared for the worst.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on March 22, 2013 12:47 PM.

Public Service ethics: do as I say was the previous entry in this blog.

A new workplace program? is the next entry in this blog.

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