Budget officer adds up costs of civil service

OBJ Staff
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The growth in compensation for federal civil servants outstripped the gains made by private-sector employees and the national inflation rate over the past 13 years, according to the country's parliamentary budget watchdog.

Federal government

That's one of the findings contained in a report released by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Tuesday morning, titled, Fiscal Impact of Federal Personnel Expenses: Trends and Developments.

It also found federal personnel expenses added up to $43.8 billion in 2011-12, or 2.55 per cent of GDP. That works out to an average of $114,000 in compensation for the 375,500-strong workforce.

That comes off an earlier period, in the 1990s, when both compensation and number of employees declined as a result of budget cutbacks introduced by then finance minister Paul Martin.

Since then, however, the public service has more than made up for lost time and has reached new heights in terms of number of workers and compensation, which includes salaries and benefits.

Since taking office, the Harper government has been criticized - at different times - for both bloating the public service and radically cutting it back.

Recently, the Treasury Department reported it had cut about 11,000 in the first six months of the three-year program to eliminate 19,200 positions.

There has been little analysis about whether the cutbacks have impacted service to Canadians, however.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Gregory Thomas said even when all the jobs have been eliminated, the Harper government will still have about 11,000 more public servants than was the case in 2006, when the Conservatives were elected.

He says the calculus often used in rationalizing growth in the public sector is at odds with how the private sector operates.

"There is an idea that the public service should grow in line with population, but it doesn't make sense," he said.

"Newsrooms don't work that way, and neither does General Motors."

-With a report by the Canadian Press

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