Aylward: Budget 2023 threatens cuts to public services Canadians depend on 

The government’s plan to cut nearly $15 billion in programs and services over the next four years is a major step backwards when they should be focused on building a strong social safety net when Canadians need it most. 

The government plans to find $8.6 billion in cuts across federal departments, Crown corporations and agencies, and also plans to save an additional $6.4 billion by delaying or cancelling previously announced programs.  

“The last time we saw blanket reductions across the board, it meant major cuts to public services and the workers who deliver them,” said Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) National President. “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t find $15 billion in cuts without slashing the vital services that Canadians depend on.”   

The promise to cut back on outsourcing and management consulting is a positive step forward, but doesn’t go far enough to end the contracting out of frontline public services. 

“Dollar for dollar, history shows that the public service delivers better bang for your buck than over-priced, external management consultants,” said Aylward. “The government is right to crack down on the ‘shadow-public service,’ but the devil is in the details. Canadians need to see the government’s plan to reduce spending on corporate advisors.” 

It’s encouraging to see the government make a real investment in Black public service workers by increasing funding for a mental health fund and career development program, however the work needs to be transparent and informed by Black workers. Budget commitments to pass anti-scab legislation and legislation to better protect gig workers are welcome but still require real action.  

While the budget allocates just over $1 billion towards Phoenix for "pay system resources"  over the next two years, this money is simply to pay the workers that the government has already hired – it does nothing to increase capacity. Similarly, the additional $52 million for "pay administration capacity" is allocated to Next Gen development and not solving current pay issues.  Neither of these measures give us confidence that the government will start prioritizing remedies for outstanding pay problems rather than continuing to focus on recovering overpayments from our members.

Budget 2023 also leaves unanswered questions for the 165,000 PSAC federal public service workers who have been working without a contract for nearly two years.  

“Everyday costs have become unaffordable for Canadians, and workers are falling behind,” said Aylward. “As strike votes wrap up in the coming weeks, the real test will be whether this government is prepared to walk the talk by delivering a decent contract for workers that keeps up with the rising cost of living.”


March 28, 2023