Trudeau Liberals spent billions more in federal staffing during pandemic, says PBO

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the government's central procurement agency, also hired more staff to negotiate billions in contracts for personal protective equipment, vaccines, and COVID-19 tests.

Trudeau Liberals spent billions more in federal staffing during pandemic, says PBO
The Canadian Press / Darryl Dyck
Remove Ads

The Trudeau Liberals spent so much money during the COVID-19 pandemic that the profound growth of the federal government's workforce is not indeed known. However, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux confirmed that increased federal hiring surpassed rates in the private sector.

"It's most recent and ongoing," said Giroux, who earlier estimated payroll costs will top $50 billion this year. In the fiscal year 2021, Ottawa spent $59.623 billion on personnel costs, including salaries, pensions, benefits and overtime, an increase of $4.438 billion from 2020.

"What is the guiding factor for the significant increases in the public service?" asked Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie. "It seems rather widespread in the public sector as the government increases its spending in various areas," replied Giroux.

"Do you believe personnel costs for the public service are in line with what is seen in the private sector in Canada?" asked Kusie. "I think the growth has been faster in the public sector," replied Giroux.

In a November 18 report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said the number of federal employees since 2015 increased from 342,000 to 391,000, or an average of 2.3% yearly.

Figures supplied by the Treasury Board and other ministries and departments show the Trudeau Liberals added 19,151 jobs in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, and another 16,356 positions in fiscal 2022.

Last year's increase more than doubled the average annual employment gains posted by federal government workers between 2015 and 2020, covering years the Trudeau Liberals have been in power.

"Government spending on public servant salaries and benefits is forecast to climb to almost $55 billion this year or about $130,000 per full-time employee," said the report.

Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk told the government operations committee the increased hiring was in line with population growth. But, the Trudeau Liberals spent so much money, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, that it remains challenging to gauge the size of the federal government's workforce.

Three departments and agencies accounted for about half the job gains, including the Public Health Agency of Canada. Health Canada, which coordinated the country's COVID-19 response, stabilized their staffing levels by 40% in 2020 for a jump of 941.

The Employment and Social Development Department and Canada Revenue Agency — which collaborated on designing and delivering emergency benefit payments to Canadians — increased employment by 21% and 5.3%, respectively, for a combined total gain of nearly 8,000.

Public Services and Procurement Canada, the government's central procurement agency, also hired more staff as part of efforts to negotiate billions in contracts for personal protective equipment, vaccines, and COVID-19 tests.

Despite the need for people to develop and administer emergency programs lessened, Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey suggests the hiring continued unabated earlier this year. The monthly snapshot for March estimated 457,400 federal government workers in February, compared to about 410,000 in the same month a year earlier.

According to public accounts, the government added $19.2 billion worth of future benefits earned by employees last year, compared to the total spending increase of $270 billion in fiscal 2021. An additional 28,176 bureaucrats went on long-term leave in 2022, not receiving their full salaries, though many remain eligible for taxpayer-funded top-ups, benefits, insurance and pension contributions.

According to a 2021 government-produced "snapshot" of the public service, 82.2% of federal employees were in permanent positions, 12.4% filled temporary jobs, and 5.4% were termed "casual workers."

"Even though in real numbers it's increased, it's still relatively the same percentage of the Canadian population," clarified Kusmierczyk. "When you look at the total federal public service, it still represents, even with the increases, it's about 0.8% of the population which is the same proportion as back in 2010."

"More Canadians mean more enquiries about the Canada Pension Plan, more enquiries regarding Employment Insurance and whatnot, so naturally, I would imagine you would need more full-time employees to handle that," he said. "Is that one way of looking at it?"

"It's one potential way of looking at it," replied Giroux. "By the same token, you'd also expect more services moving online as compared to in-person as has been the case with the Canada Revenue Agency notably, and there would be efficiency gains."

The public service shrunk most recently during the final five years of the Harper administration when they reduced the federal bureaucracy by almost 26,000 positions between 2010 and 2015. Former Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin cut 55,000 jobs in 1995 as part of a series of moves towards austerity.

"The federal public service was smaller in 2006 than it was 11 years earlier," Statistics Canada wrote in a 2007 report. "In terms of rates, there were 11.7 federal employees for every 1,000 Canadians in 2006, down from 13 in 1995."

The Fraser Institute uncovered in August that total federal spending was 27% higher this year than in 2019/20 — an average annual increase of 9%.

The COVID-19 pandemic expenditures partly increased federal spending by 73% to $644.2 billion in 2020/21 before declining by 21% to an estimated $508 billion in 2021/22. However, much of the uptick in federal spending remained independent of the pandemic, "representing a permanent long-term ramping up of federal expenditure."

Remove Ads
Remove Ads

Give the gift of Rebel News merch!

Just in time for Christmas — buy two unisex shirts, get one FREE using code CHRISTMAS at checkout!

buy now

Don't Get Censored

Big Tech is censoring us. Sign up so we can always stay in touch.

Remove Ads