Thousands of bureaucrats in the National Capital Region will lose their jobs in the coming years, but the Conservative government says the cuts will pale in comparison to the program review era of the 1990s.
A Canadian light-armoured vehicle on operations in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of the Department of National Defence)
HIGHLIGHTS: Departments to cut $5.2 billion in ongoing spending; Public Works to introduce new office space standards; civil service compensation to be brought "in line" with private sector.
The federal civil service will shrink by 19,200 jobs, or about 4.8 per cent, as billions of dollars are cut from departmental spending.
Federal officials forecast that 7,200 of those jobs will be eliminated through attrition, largely retirements and other voluntary measures.
Budget documents did not specify which jobs would be cut, beyond saying "a large proportion" of the reductions will be in the National Capital Region. It also noted approximately 600 of the affected positions would be at the executive level, representing 7.4 per cent of the executive workforce.
The government says this will barely dent the growth of the civil service that occurred between 1998 and 2011, when approximately 95,000 new federal positions were created.
The Tories add the planned cuts are minor when compared to the number of jobs that were eliminated by the Liberals in the 1990s, when federal employment was reduced by approximately 14 per cent, or about 50,000 positions, according to this year's budget documents.
In total, the budget says reduced departmental spending will result in approximately $5.2 billion in ongoing savings by 2014-15. This represents less than two per cent of forecast government spending and 0.2 per cent of Canada's GDP.
The Department of National Defence will shoulder the heaviest load, at approximately $1.2 billion, even as the size of the regular and reserve Canadian Forces are held constant.
It's the largest absolute drop in spending of the 26 departments, agencies and programs identified for review. In relative terms, $1.2 billion represents 7.4 per cent of DND's $15.07 billion spending that came under review.
In order to achieve these savings, DND will "improve contracting processes, streamline the procurement of support equipment and spare parts, centralize real property management, and centralize and enhance human resources management to achieve better value for money."
The Public Safety portfolio - which includes the RCMP, Correctional Service of Canada, CSIS and the Canada Border Services Agency - faces the second-largest cut at $687.9 million, or 9.9 per cent of its review base.
Few details of those cuts are contained within budget documents, which state "Public Safety Canada will reduce spending in areas of declining necessity and derive savings from business transformation and organizational restructuring."
Meanwhile, Public Works plans to introduce new office space standards in Crown-owned and occupied buildings that is says will be "more efficient and effective." Given that a large portion of the department's costs are fixed in the short term through property leases and contracts to purchase goods and services, Public Works has until 2018-19 to reduce its overall spending by $177.6 million.
The National Capital Commission will "streamline and modernize its operations by leveraging new technologies and equipment," saving $1.8 million. The National Arts Centre Corp. will see its budget reduced by $1.9 million by 2014-15.
Several other local cultural institutions emerged unscathed, including The Canada Council for the Arts, the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
Separately, the federal government says it will bring federal public service compensation "in line" with that of other public and private-sector employers by "taking specific action," although the only example given was to eliminate the accumulation of severance benefits for those who voluntarily resign or retire.
Public servants will also eventually be expected to contribute half the costs of their pension plans. Starting next year, bureaucrats who join the federal civil service will be expected to work until age 65, up from 60.