Auditor General Criticizes Outsourcing of Federal Public Service Jobs as Ottawa MPs Pierre Poilievre and John Baird Do Nothing

By Gary Corbett

The findings of Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s Fall 2012 Report, released on October 23, come as no surprise to the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents over five thousand employees impacted by the government’s on–going dismantling of our nation’s public service infrastructure.

The report notes that the federal government spends billions of dollars on external contractors annually, without fully assessing the costs, benefits and risks involved. At the same time the Treasury Board is paying out billions to private sector contractors with one hand, it is using the other hand to cut the jobs of the federal public servants who usually do this work with the proper experience, oversight and accountability.

It is obvious from the Auditor General’s report that Treasury Board President Tony Clement is paying for these expensive and unregulated external contractors by cutting the jobs of public servants. The danger of unregulated or self-regulated processes came into stark reality recently when a breakdown in health and safety processes due to lack of federal oversight at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta, resulted in an E. coli outbreak that led to a beef recall and endangered the health of Canadians from coast-to-coast–to-coast. Despite this grave warning, Tony Clement and Ottawa MPs John Baird and Pierre Poilievre are doubling down as 4 per cent of federal all public servants jobs are terminated between now and 2015.

The situation is particularly serious at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Health Canada, two departments that together account for about 25 per cent of the total federal contracting-out budget. The Auditor General’s report confirms what public service employees have been saying all along: You can’t eliminate or outsource thousands of public sector jobs to the private sector and maintain the same level of safety, security and financial accountability. Canadians know there is a very real price to pay for the government’s ongoing cuts to the country’s federal workforce. It is no coincidence that HRSDC and Health Canada have seen close to 1,400 PIPSC members receive “affected notices” this year, and that hundreds more members have been transferred to Shared Services Canada before a detailed plan was even in place.

Consider this. In addition to PIPSC members (as of September 13, 2012), 18,019 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) in 44 departments received notices saying they could lose their jobs. A grand total of 19,200 positions will be lost due to the Harper government’s latest round of cuts to the federal workforce. PIPSC, PSAC and other unions within the government representing additional departmental workers have received workforce adjustment notices – this while the Harper government recklessly spends billions of dollars contracting out government services to their friends.

The number of federal public servants in the National Capital Region (NCR) whose jobs are expected to be cut totals 6,268. In addition, the Harper Conservatives are terminating 2,609 public servants in Ontario; 2,326 in Quebec; 2,155 in the Prairies; 1,876 in the Atlantic; 1,213 in British Columbia; and 124 in the North.

Thirty-five per cent of these notices have gone out in the NCR, while 65 per cent  have gone out elsewhere in the country. These cuts are only beginning. The Harper government plans significant departmental cuts at the Department of National Defence, Parks Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Statistics Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

These cuts are being hardest felt by federal employees in the National Capital Region whose careers are being terminated while the Harper government, with the full support of Ottawa-area Conservative MPs John Baird and Pierre Poilievre, do nothing as the savings are redirected to external contractors – the very contractors the Auditor General is criticizing in his report. Where are the elected representatives? Busy busting unions, that’s where! All the while people are losing their jobs.

Rather than support the hardworking public servants in his riding, Poilievre has decided to embark on a sideshow and attack the public sector unions that are standing up for the very people in his own riding whom the government is terminating in order to give out contracts to external contractors. It is clear now more than ever that Poilievre and Baird have put their Conservative Tea Party ideology first and are sacrificing thousands of public sector jobs in their own ridings and cutting public services to Canadians at the altar of privatization. They obviously think profits for companies come ahead of the safety of Canadians. I encourage all public servants in Baird’s and Poilievre’s ridings to remember their role in supporting these cuts in the next national election.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the Auditor General’s report.