From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Smoke and Mirrors

We were treated this past week to the spectacle of our government crowing about laying off  nearly eleven thousand federal employees, as if potentially destroying the lives of more than ten thousand Canadian families is something to be proud of.

Ottawa — The Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for FedNor, today announced that 10,980 public service jobs have been eliminated so far as part of Economic Action Plan 2012.
"We said we would eliminate 19,200 positions within the federal government and we are doing what we promised to do," said Minister Clement. "In just six months, we have already achieved more than half the reductions set out in the Budget. A leaner, more affordable government is good for taxpayers and it's important in terms of our ability to return to balanced budgets."
The job reductions have been achieved through a combination of attrition, which includes retirement, and positions eliminated under the collectively bargained workforce adjustment process. In the first half of this fiscal year, 7,500 positions have been eliminated through attrition, up from 7,200 originally projected in Economic Action Plan 2012.
"We are shrinking the size of government while minimizing impacts to employees," said Minister Clement. "We will continue to work hard to rein in spending and find efficiencies in government operations. Our Government understands that reducing costs helps keep taxes and our debt low, which are critical to spurring growth and ensuring our long-term prosperity."

I thought the Economic Action Plan was about creating jobs not eliminating them. Oh wait a minute I know now. The EAP like everything this government does is about eliminating good paying jobs and replacing them with low paying unstable ones as Carol Goar points out in her piece on David Macdonald's study on outsourcing within the federal civil service

Economist David Macdonald decided to find out how many consultants, contractors and temporary workers the federal government was hiring and how much Canadians were paying for them.
It took him about a year. What he discovered was a burgeoning “shadow public service.” Last year (2010) it cost taxpayers $1.2 billion. That was 79 per cent higher than when Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power in 2006

 Now the picture becomes clearer. This shadow civil service consists mainly of temporary workers employed by outside contractors, they are paid less than the government employee they work beside despite doing the same job, have none of the benefits or job security either. But get this far from saving us money they actually cost the government more. “But it’s a lot more expensive to pay somebody else to manage your workforce than do it yourself.”

Macdonald also discovered a large discrepancy between the value of the contracts the government signed and what it actually spent. Contracts were repeatedly revised, extended and modified driving up the final price by as much 700 per cent. Once an outsourcing deal had been signed, government managers had “considerable leeway” to reach back into the public purse to buy more services.

So as is consistent with Harper's neo-liberal bent our government is being contracted out to the private sector at considerable cost not only to the treasury but also to the very well being of society. Not only is this being done covertly but apparently with few if any controls. So the next time Clement steps up to the mic to crow about reducing the size of government you would be wise to keep Macdonald's study in mind.

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