Policy Commentary

ACFO President Milt Isaacs says bureaucrats the “scapegoats” in budget crunch

The federal government will table the 2010-2011 Budget on March 4th.  It is fair to say that it has already been finalized and that, while the government will continue its economic stimulus spending, it will probably put in place spending restrictions.

We agree that it is important to properly manage taxpayers’ dollars. This is why we think that strategic cuts and better policies need to be implemented. The problem is that governments are more interested in short-term quick fixes designed to help them get elected than long-term financial planning.

The fact is that we will face other recessions and economic downturns in the future. Governments spend during downturns to stimulate the economy and then save during more prosperous times in order to balance their books and pay down the debt. This is a normal process.

Some political parties tend to find “scapegoat” to create and direct public anger in order to justify some of their policies. It is easier to create a mountain out of a molehill than actually deal with the existing problems.

It seems that public servants are going to be the scapegoats. Last year, they were deprived of their bargaining rights and forced to accept minimal pay increases. Fundamental human rights were trampled when the government diminished the pay equity program.

In 2010, the public service pension system is portrayed as being “too expensive.” It is interesting to note that the government felt it was healthy enough and then decided in the 1990’s to”steal” the pension plan surplus (over $33 billion) and stop contributing its portion to the program.

Then, to get people really upset, reports are circulated on the use of taxi chits and paid parking for bureaucrats.

We agree that abuse needs to be stopped. However, the abuse is not the $20 cost of a taxi ride for a bureaucrat to meet with various stakeholders. There is no abuse in the government providing (for a minimal cost) parking to its employees in a building it owns or fully leases. However, we should probably take a strong look at the millions of dollars of annual ministerial travel, extensive use of military jets or even the $5 million spent on a minister’s office renovations.

Let’s look at the big picture.

When the government announces a new spending program and decides to implement it quickly and without doing due diligence, we find ourselves wasting millions of dollars. Examples include the gun control registry and the Secure Channel project. The Auditor General keeps raising concerns about these programs. The government keeps ignoring them.

As bureaucrats, we can only provide advice to elected officials. Politicians make the decisions. That’s the democratic system. I support it.

However, let’s be honest when presenting facts and figures. Was it the right moment to cut the GST and therefore decrease government revenues by tens of billions of dollars at a time when the natural economic cycle indicated that we were going to soon experience a downturn?

2010-02-25T00:00:00

 

Related posts
Back to top