OTTAWA—While Finance Minister Joe Oliver is expected to announce a balanced budget today, a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives examines the toll federal austerity measures have had on public services.
The report, by CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald and Research Associate Kayle Hatt, reviews the extent of federal government cuts and provides tangible examples of how these cuts have negatively impacted important public services.
"While undermining Canada's economic recovery, the rush to balance the budget has also impacted federally delivered services. The biggest cuts were made in areas where Canadians most heavily rely on the federal government," says Macdonald. "It is not a stretch to say that veterans and the unemployed, for example, will be deprived of services for the sake of hurrying a return to federal surpluses."
Federal spending cuts have not been small. By next year, the cumulative effect of these cuts will be $14.5 billion a year. These cuts won't stop at the end of 2014—previous federal budgets have already announced two more years of spending cuts, even though the budget is balanced.
According to the study:
- Federal government employment has already shrunk by 36,900 people. By 2016, the total number of people working for the federal government will have fallen by 8%—significantly higher than the 4.8% figure reported in Budget 2012.
- From 2011-12 to 2016-17, the Veterans Affairs staff compliment will have been cut by 25%. The largest proportional staff cut will be to the program supporting disability, death, and financial benefits for veterans, where 32% of the positions will be cut.
- In 2012-13, 12 million calls to the Employment Insurance helpline went unanswered. These are cases where the phone lines were overloaded and callers could not even be added to the queue. In addition, there were 1.2 million abandoned calls, where individuals waiting on hold hung up before they were connected to agents.
- By 2016 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will have lost 20% of its workforce and had its budget cut by 24%. CFIA's Food Safety program, which handles inspections of food packaging and production facilities as well as food product regulation, has faced budget cuts of 22% ($82 million) and staff cuts of 13.5%.
"It's important to emphasize that these cuts have not been temporary measures to save money during the deficit-fighting years and these cuts will not be reversed when the budget is balanced. This is the new status quo," says Hatt.
At What Cost: The Impacts of Rushing to Balance the Budget is available on the CCPA website at http://policyalternatives.ca
For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.