Federal public service ballooned 40% since Trudeau became prime minister

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Since Justin Trudeau became prime minister in 2015, the size of Canada’s federal government has ballooned by more than 40%.

Canada’s federal bureaucracy increased from 257,034 people in 2015 — 195,565 from the core public administration and another 61,469 from other government agencies — to 335,957 in 2022. Of that, 254,309 worked in the core administration, and 81,648 received employment from agencies.

According to a new Public Service Commission (PSC) report, the federal government employs 274,219 Canadians. However, Treasury Board statistics revealed that contractors and external employees raised the total number of workers to 357,247 people last year.

Despite committing to cut excess consultants in Budget 2023 as a cost savings measure, the Trudeau Liberals hired 71,200 external employees in the last fiscal year — a 10% increase year-over-year. 

Nearly three-fifths (59.3%) of those jobs were non-advertised, compared to 21.7% under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, reported the Western Standard.

The swelling of the public service coincides with higher spending, according to The Globe and Mail, representing a 30.9% increase since 2021/22. Government spending on consultants also grew by 14.7% during that time. 

In 2023, Treasury Board President Anita Anand announced Ottawa must cut spending by $15.4 billion over five years, amid $17.5 billion in costs incurred by the federal public service.

A PBO report last March, The Government’s Expenditure Plan and Main Estimates for 2023-24, noted outsourcing costs — officially described as professional and special services — have increased by over a third since the 2017/18 fiscal year. Simultaneously, the federal public service climbed to 335,957 employees in 2022, up 28% from 262,696 in 2017.

“You wonder, what is all that money doing?” said Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux, who noted glaring issues across several federal services, including passports, Veterans Affairs, Employment Insurance applications and delays for access-to-information requests.

“More public servants, more professional and special services,” he added. “But the level of services and the service standards are not increasing commensurately with all these increases. Quite the opposite.”

Aaron Wudrick, Director of Domestic Policy at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said if the government compels Canadians to fork up 40% more money, they should expect 40% faster service. 

“I don’t think most people feel that value for money,” he told the Western Standard. “It seems to me you either want to retain that expertise outside or inside the government and yet they seem to be spending more in both areas.”

According to the PBO, Canada’s exploding bureaucracy met less than half (48%) of their performance metrics in 2022/23.

From 2015 to 2022, the Treasury Board said the federal public service fulfilled only 1,361 of 2,393 established targets. They failed to meet 702 performance indicators whereas 330 had no results available at the time.

Wudrick acknowledged the Trudeau Liberals have signaled some fiscal restraint moving forward but has yet to see that manifest “in terms of hard numbers.”

“I think the budget will be a big signal as to whether they’ll actually change direction or continue on this path,” he said.

Since Trudeau became prime minister, federal executives took home $1.3 billion in bonuses as reward for their relatively poor performance, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) in an access-to-information request. 

Annual bonuses ranged from $15,550 to $18,252, totalling north of $202 million — a 46% jump from the 2015/16 fiscal year.

The amount of incentive pay distributed also rose 53% to $58 billion in 2021, they said.

Among the other entities entitled to incentive pay is the CBC, which received $16 million in bonuses in 2022/23. It went to roughly 80% of the workforce that only met 60% of its performance goals.

Treasury Board spokesperson Martin Potvin clarified last March that executives who fail to meet their targets would not receive bonuses. 

Yet more public workers either resigned, changed jobs within public service, or faced internal investigations in fiscal year 2022/23 than ever before.

The CTF outright condemned the federal government for overspending on the public service for little payoff.

“Trudeau needs to take some air out of the ballooning bureaucracy,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director.

“Taxpayers have paid for hundreds of thousands of pay raises, hundreds of millions in bonuses and for tens of thousands of extra bureaucrats and the government still can’t meet half of its own performance targets,” he told Rebel News.

Giroux partially attributes this to parliamentarians approving new spending without having viewed the departmental results.

“Canadians need a more efficient government, not a bloated government full of highly paid bureaucrats,” added Terrazzano.



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