Message from the President - Budget 2019: A Progressive Disappointment
It’s hard not to see the latest federal budget as a pre-election platform. It’s equally hard not to see it as a progress report on the “real change” promised during the last election.
Progress has certainly been made in the past three years. But when it comes to restoring the public service so much remains to be done that Budget 2019 is undeniably a disappointment.
Take the Phoenix pay system. (Please.) The government is promising to spend another $523.3 million over the next five years to fix Phoenix. While more money to help members fix their existing pay problems is welcome, the Budget offers nothing to ensure what will replace Phoenix proceeds without delay. In short, the government is still paying for the mistakes of the past rather than investing in a fix for the future.
Budget 2019 invests an additional $77 million a year in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to, among other things, combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. But the Agency’s budget remains almost $500 million less than it was in 2012. Meanwhile investments are sorely needed in new training and technology to catch offshore tax cheats and enforce tax fairness.
The government deserves praise for replenishing the ranks of federal scientists, engineers and researchers over the past three years – 1,500 of which positions had been lost due to cuts under the former government. But actual spending – in particular, on government R&D – is lower today than it was under the Harper government. Canada needs more, not less, government science.
In the last election campaign the Liberal fiscal plan promised to “Reduc[e] the use of external consultants, bringing expenditures closer to 2005/06 levels.” Since then spending on outsourcing has grown from $10 billion in 2015 to $12 billion today. Enough said.
With collective bargaining underway and many public servants still stung by Phoenix and the impacts of Harper-era budget cuts, the government needs to do better to ensure the public service is restored and that our members’ demands for better pay protections, improved family leave and stronger safeguards against workplace harassment are among its own priorities.
The current budget leaves a lot to be desired.