OTTAWA — Treasury Board President Anita Anand is tasking federal cabinet ministers with finding $15.4 billion in government spending cuts by a deadline of Oct. 2.
A spokesperson for Anand says the government wants to refocus underutilized funds on critical services such as health care — and it doesn’t expect to cut any public-service jobs.
Monica Granados says the savings would meet a commitment in this year’s federal budget to reduce overall government spending by $14.1 billion from 2023 to 2028, and by $4.1 billion annually after that.
The Liberals pledged to reduce discretionary spending on government consulting, professional services and travel by 15 per cent or $7.1 billion over five years.
The government also promised to save $7 billion over four years on operations and transfer payments.
A letter from Anand to cabinet ministers, which was first reported on by The Globe and Mail, also asked ministers to engage with Crown corporations in their portfolios to find similar savings targets.
“I ask that you engage with those in your portfolio as soon as possible to provide leadership in achieving our government’s goal of sound economic and fiscal stewardship,” Anand said in the letter obtained by The Canadian Press.
The government said in its 2023 budget that comparable restrictions on spending by Crown corporations would lead to savings of $1.3 billion over four years and $450 million annually thereafter.
Granados said the initiative is also about ensuring that public servants and funds are better allocated to government priorities, like the clean economy.
She said the cuts are not expected to result in federal job losses, aside from the normal attrition or redeployment of government workers.
But the president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the country’s largest federal public-sector union, said the proposed cuts and review are being rushed through.
Chris Aylward said there has not been enough transparency, and his union was not consulted.
“The government needs to pause these cuts until it has conducted a whole-of-government review of staffing and service needs with bargaining agents involved throughout the process,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It is time that the government work with bargaining agents to prioritize the needs of communities by ensuring that public service staffing meets the real, objective demand for programs and services.”
Aylward speculated that a $15-billion cut would result in either cuts to services for Canadians or to the workforce itself.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a news conference that while there are areas where the government could better spend taxpayer money, he is worried the Liberals would have to cut essential services and programs.
“I’m concerned that in a time when people are already feeling so squeezed that these cuts might mean cuts to things Canadians need, like our health care, like our social services and social safety net,” said Singh.
He suggested that the government could reinvest the money it uses on outsourced contracts.
When asked in a press conference Tuesday if he would support $15 billion in government budget cuts and where he would pull the money, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Trudeau’s government can’t be trusted to find the savings.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2023.
Liam Fox, The Canadian Press