Budget 2016 could create the conditions for more privatization, outsourcing and centralization in the federal public service and PSAC will be monitoring the government’s actions closely. We will organize to oppose measures that would weaken the public service or negatively affect the well-being of our members.
Need for transparency
The government has said it is committed to eliminating poorly targeted and inefficient programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective and obsolete government initiatives. Going forward, it will identify other changes and better align spending with priorities.
Budget 2016 doesn’t address the process or criteria for identifying these programs, spending and initiatives. Nor does it identify what those programs are and why they are no longer in the public interest. There must be a transparent process identifying affected programs or spending. Our union must be given full information to assess the impact changes could have on services and the work of our members
Workers need to be protected as systems change
Budget 2016 proposes to provide $75.2 million over two years to support the replacement of departmental and agency human resources, information and management platforms with government-wide systems. We assume this means internet technology and software platforms that support these functions.
It is unclear to what extent this work will be outsourced to providers and what the cost implications will be. We are also concerned the initiatives could set the stage for very disruptive processes and increased job loss. Our members have experienced the implementation of the new federal pay platform that eliminated over 1,500 jobs and deployed hundreds of qualified pay specialists.
PSAC has already tabled proposals at the Treasury Board bargaining tables to improve the Workforce Adjustment process to make it fairer and more transparent.
A missed opportunity to reduce contracting out
The government currently estimates that about $10.9 billion is spent annually on professional and special services. Budget 2016’s $221 million annual reduction in professional services, travel and government advertising is a drop in the bucket.
Canadians need a transparent review of the use of professional and special services, particularly temporary staffing agencies. Reducing the use of these agencies alone would reduce overall costs and lift significant numbers of people out of precarious work situations into more permanent employment.
Government doesn’t need P3s
Budget 2016 includes $3.4 billion earmarked for crumbling federal assets, providing significant scope for the government to privatize ownership and operation of these assets. Public private partnerships (P3s) are already being considered for infrastructure projects at the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Privatization and P3s are more expensive and not in the public interest. In 2014, Ontario’s auditor general estimated that P3s cost Ontario $8 billion more or $1,600 for every Ontario household than if they had been publicly financed and operated. The Ontario Auditor General also found that there was no evidence or empirical data to support claims that Ontario’s 74 P3 projects transferred large amounts of risk to the private sector.
The government doesn’t need P3s. It has access to lower borrowing costs than any private corporation or consortium. The government was right to remove the requirement that all federally-funded infrastructure projects be considered for public private partnerships. We urge the government to eliminate PPP Canada Inc. all together.
$500 million on program integrity issues
Starting in 2016-17, the government intends to spend $500 million over two years addressing government-wide program integrity issues. The intent is to improve client service, ensure employee health and safety and give the government the ability to deliver critical services on behalf of departments and organizations.
The government will be addressing program and operational risks that emerge due to evolving workload pressures, asset rust-out, program price inflation and other program cost drivers. No other details have been released and PSAC will be pressing the government for more information.