Look before you leap to conclusions

Last night, on Voice of BC, we opined, "The provincial government, at the current moment in time, seems to be of two opinions concerning what to do with the provincial civil service. On one hand, they want to maintain and bolster the morale of existing bureaucrats and recruit talented new people into the bureaucracy. But, on the other hand, they've made it quite clear that reducing the number of civil servants is actually going to be part of their plan to balance the budget." But Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong took issue with that opinion.

"I think it's unfortunate that someone who, generally speaking, observes what is taking place would misconstrue or come to the kind of conclusions that Sean has, by virtue of that question," said Minister de Jong.

"Now, look, these are difficult economic times," he continued. "But that's why the premier's deputy went to the head of the union representing the public service and said, 'How can we work together to minimize any impact on jobs?' A very good discussion developed around, 'Well, maybe we can do something around voluntary holiday time so people aren't going to lose their jobs.'"

Yet, in a recent email to bureaucrats, the premier's deputy minister Jessica McDonald stated, "We continue to believe (staff reassignments) will help us significantly reduce the potential for layoffs. I want to reinforce that we still expect that the number of regular and auxiliary employees ultimately affected will be less than five per cent of the public service."

And that second sentence suggests such layoffs are a certainty rather than a possibility.

4 Comments

De Jong is not dealing with the basic issue here. The Govt's determination to reduce staff levels because of revenue shortfalls means that this Govt is doing exactly what Bill Bennett's Govt did in the 1980s recession, behaving pro-cyclically.

To the average person, and to those who despise any mention of Keynes or Keynesianism, it comes across as "fiscal responsibility", which is a political concept, not an economic one.

The Govt is minimizing expenditures in order to minimize the deficit. But in so doing it's abandoning its potential to maintain public demand levels even as private consumption and investment and export markets turn down. Whatever the hype, the actual result is that they are acting to extend the length and increase the depth of the recession.

Many will applaud this, its the politically correct thing to do in the homeland of WAC Bennett and his legend, but the damage to the real economy will be maximized as the deficit is minimized.


Very interesting point Rod.

I think the real damage done, if this is, indeed, the strategy, will depend on how long the down cycle lasts.

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Child protection social workers with auxillary status are already being notified that they will be getting laid off. The fact that this government considers this an appropriate course of action in a chronically understaffed area of public service just demonstrates the complete lack of intelligence, total incompetence and shortsightedness of this joke of a government.

MCFD doesn't need any more cuts, what it needs, is more funding, more staff and succession-planning. As a taxpayer, it pisses me off to no end that MCFD hires people, spends thousands training them, has one of the highest attrition rates and sick leave rates of any Ministry in this morally bankrupt government, yet, even facing those realities, MCFD is going to lay off social workers who are serving the most vulnerable children, youth & families in BC.

Once again, the BC Liberals and the idiots they've promoted well beyond their competence in MCFD and elsewhere(Peter Principle) demonstrate their penny wise pound foolish way of mismanaging public services in BC and those who can least afford it will pay the cost. Tell me what management manual teaches cutting staff, or "talent" leads to increased morale for those left behind to pick up the work, or leads to improved recruitment & retention. None. Because that is a stupid way to run any organization you expect to continue.

I agree with the previous comment as well, this kind of human resource mismanagement will maximize the impacts of what will be a depression, not recession, it will be much worse than that, especially for those who are already at the bottom of the totem pole. What a disgrace and embarrassment this BC Liberal government is to good government that operates in the public interest.

Good points! Laying off government staff just as unemployment is surging and cutting back government spending when the economy is contracting will just accentuate the recession, as Rod notes. Additionally, cutting back social service staff and programs will further aggravate the pain of the recession by withdrawing the safety net that would otherwise help cushion the blow!

We already have by far the worst child poverty rates in Canada - how much lower do we plan to go?

I find these policies extraordinarily ignorant for a government that's always gone to great lengths to tout its so-called management prowess. It's not rocket science and governments around the world seem to have figured this out - why is BC so backward?

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