August 31, 2011
Public Workers a Waste
Taxpayers are being bled to pay for more government employees than other provinces
Tom Brodbeck, Winnipeg Sun, August 31, 2011
One in four Manitobans works for the public sector, either through a government department, Crown corporation, school division, health facility, municipality or some other taxpayer-funded entity.
One in four. That's an amazing number. In Canada, one in five employees works for the public sector, quite a bit less than in Manitoba.
Those figures -- based on Statistics Canada data -- were released Tuesday by the Frontier Centre, a Winnipeg-based think tank that has done some research into the size of Manitoba's public sector compared with other provinces.
"Manitoba's public sector is among the largest in Canada in terms of the percentage of the provincial workforce it absorbs as well as the number of public servants relative to the overall population," the report said.
And we wonder why our provincial government is now running a half-billion dollar deficit and has racked up a record amount of debt?
One in four employees works for the government, that's why. And it's bleeding taxpayers dry.
You may have read in the Winnipeg Sun earlier this week how Manitobans pay by far the highest income taxes in Western Canada. I wonder why?
I guess when one out of four workers in the province is paid by taxpayers, taxes have to be high. Especially in a province that doesn't have a lot of wealth to begin with.
Has anybody stopped to think that maybe we don't have a lot of wealth compared with many other provinces because we're such a big-government province?
Here's another statis-tic from the report. We have 103 public sector workers in this province for every 1,000 Manitobans. In Canada, that average is 88 per 1,000.
No matter how you slice it, this province employs a lot of government workers and others on the taxpayer payroll.
Naturally those salaries are going to siphon money away from individuals and companies who could be investing that cash back into the local economy.
Unfortunately, Premier Greg Selinger doesn't take these numbers seriously. In fact, he mocks the report.
Selinger says the numbers in the report are inaccurate and he insists his government is one of the most affordable in the country.
Is Selinger saying he doesn't believe Statistics Canada data? StatsCan is one of the most reputable statistical agencies in the world. But instead of dealing with the problem, Selinger would rather shoot the messenger.
The good news is the Frontier Centre doesn't just point out the problem without offering a solution. They've crunched the numbers and have come up with a plan that governments in Manitoba could follow.
If the provincial and local governments trim their workforce by a mere 5% over the next 10 years, the number of public sector employees per 1,000 people would be almost even with the national average.
That's only a 0.5% cut in the public sector per year.
"It is likely that the annual reductions in the combined provincial and local work-forces of just 0.5% required to meet this target could be achieved relatively painlessly through attrition and without rapid, ill-considered cuts to any area of government activity," the report said.
Can we please see this plan in some political party's platform? Seems like a very reasonable and measured long-term plan to get our public- sector spending problem under control.
I don't know why Selinger would simply dismiss this idea out-of-hand.
If we did reduce the size of our public sector to the national average, it would save a typical family of four $3,940 a year, according to the report.
Imagine if Manitobans were allowed to keep that money in their wallets and invest it back into the local economy, what a boon that would create?
The solutions are there. We just need politicians with the vision to implement them.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."