Atlantic Canada to suffer disproportionately from federal austerity: Report
by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives | Posted November 27, 2012
A new CCPA-NS report released today makes projections for federal public sector job loss in Atlantic Canada and discusses the breadth and depth of its impact in the region.
CCPA-NS publishes Public Disservice: the impact of federal government job cuts in Atlantic Canada at a time when many are questioning a federal austerity agenda that is eliminating jobs, programs and services Canadians need, while refusing to provide the information needed to fully understand the consequences.
“Canadians are being told by government that cuts to jobs and services won’t affect them. The truth is these cuts come at a price. And this report tries to get a handle on just what it will cost Atlantic Canada,” says CCPA-NS Director and principal author Christine Saulnier. “We conclude that the cuts will definitely have an effect on the broader economy, and they will also directly affect the ability of the public service to ensure that accessible public services are available to those who need them in communities across our region.”
The report finds what many have suspected. Atlantic Canada stands to suffer disproportionately in cuts and in consequences. CCPA-NS calculates that at least 4400 full-time equivalent jobs will be lost by the end of March 2015. While 43% of the cuts will occur in the national capital region, 22% of all the rest of the cuts will be in the Atlantic region — 12% of all estimated job cuts will be in the Atlantic Region. And those job losses are in addition to the jobs that have already been lost, at least 1057 positions as of the end of March 2012.
“Since the 2012 federal budget was tabled in the spring, 19,355 of our members received Work Force Adjustment notices advising them they could lose their jobs. 2163 noticed were received in the Atlantic,” says Jeannie Baldwin, Atlantic Regional Executive Vice-President for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “From St. John’s, NL, to St. Andrews, NB, PSAC members are scared for their jobs, they are scared or their futures and they are scared for their families.”
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is the largest federal public sector union with upwards of 180,000 members, almost 20,000 of whom are in the Atlantic. The Professional Institute for the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) ranks second largest representing 60,000 scientists and other professionals across the public sector, including several thousand in Atlantic Canada. At PIPSC, over 5300 members across the country have received “affected” notices since the 2012 federal Budget, 450 in Atlantic Canada and roughly 100 in Halifax.
“The loss of knowledge-based workers and professionals will affect the government’s ability to make sound, evidence-based decisions,” says PIPSC National President Gary Corbett. “Services are being lost and thousands of jobs and families put at risk – this is a dangerous double whammy for communities right across the Atlantic region.”
The study reports that the Atlantic Region is not only absorbing more than its fair share of the job cuts, the smallest province in the country is absorbing the most. With some of the highest unemployment rates, lowest wages and serious outmigration issues, none of these provinces can easily absorb the impact of these cuts, least of all PEI.
“The cuts are also further eroding the ability of the federal public service to respond to the needs of the people in this region and especially those outside of urban centres – with more offices being centralized inside and outside the region,” says Saulnier. “The positions being cut also undermine our government’s ability to make sound decisions whether about fisheries or about the needs of job seekers in the region.”
The report is upfront about the difficulties the authors had in conducting their research. Departments, agencies and crown corporations have been silenced on the process and logic by which decisions to cut and by how much were made. It also warns the federal governments short sightedness might have serious consequences for youth retention and employment equity.
“These decisions should not be shrouded in secrecy. In a democracy, the public should have access to the information required to hold the government accountable,” says Corbett. “These cuts affect essential public services, but neither those who provide, or those who receive and need these services, have had any input into the decisions.”
CCPA-NS’ report raises many red flags and makes recommendations to government on how to reverse course.
“If Atlantic Region is the canary in the coal mine for future budgets, the rest of Canada should pay attention” says Baldwin.