Treasury Board President Anita Anand says the federal government’s plan to find more than $15 billion in savings across departments is not expected to result in job losses beyond “normal attrition or redeployment.”
Anand recently sent a letter to her fellow cabinet ministers, giving them an Oct. 2 deadline to identify areas to cut within their respective departmental budgets, in an effort to reduce spending by $14.1 billion between now and 2028, and $4.1 billion annually in the years following.
“The review that we’re undertaking is an essential part of responsible management. And we— and I in particular—want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are addressed and handled most prudently. We need to be fiscally responsible,” Anand said Thursday in an interview on the Vassy Kapelos Show on iHeartRadio.
“The changes to operating expenditures are not expected to result in job loss outside of normal attrition or redeployment of employees to higher priority activities,” she said.
Anand was asked if she’s been met with any pushback from ministers on this task, but she wouldn’t say, noting that the cabinet is holding a retreat in Prince Edward Island next week to discuss this and other affordability issues.
The overall $15.4 billion savings commitment was announced as part of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s 2023 federal budget, with plans to find $7.1 billion over five years by cutting back spending on consulting and professional services.
Another $7 billion was set to be scaled back through a three per cent reduction of departmental spending, and an additional $1.3 billion is to be cut from federal Crown corporations over four years.
“Reductions will not impact direct benefits and service delivery to Canadians; direct transfers to other orders of government and Indigenous communities; and the Canadian Armed Forces,” read the budget.
In an interview on the topic earlier this week, National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada Chris Aylward said the proposed cuts are being rushed through, and raised concerns over the “willy-nilly” way these savings are being sought.
“It’s a very quick timeline, the unions were not consulted on this whatsoever… That is completely the wrong way to go about this,” Aylward said.
Defending the plan, Anand said the effort to bring the growth of government spending back to pre-pandemic levels has been underway for months, and will be an ongoing initiative.
“This is going to be incremental over a number of years. And the savings from underutilized government spending is going to be shifted to priorities like health care, and the clean economy. Our government is seeking to make life more affordable for Canadians, so this is about smarter, not smaller government,” Anand said.
Asked about the Liberals’ saving efforts, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre—who has been calling on the federal government to cut back spending—told reporters earlier this week he doesn’t think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be able to achieve these savings.
“Justin Trudeau will never find savings because he is incompetent with money. He believes budgets balance themselves,” Poilievre said, vowing that if he becomes prime minister he’d implement a new law requiring the government to find one dollar of savings for every dollar spent.
“It’s something that we could use as a hard discipline, the same discipline that single mothers, or factory workers, or small business owners follow every day managing their money, should be the discipline that we follow,” Poilievre said. “We’re going to balance the budget to bring home lower inflation and lower interest rates.”
Anand sought to make it clear in the interview that the Liberal plan is not comparable to the previous Stephen Harper Conservative government’s “Deficit Reduction Action Plan” which she said made “short-sighted cuts that had to be reversed” when the Trudeau government came to power in 2015.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters earlier this week that he too is concerned about the types of cuts the Liberals are eyeing, but because of what that could mean for services that Canadians are relying on when they’re already “feeling so squeezed.”
“There are places where we could certainly save money, where we could put in place some savings. We could stop the billions of dollars of subsidies to already profitable companies. That’s a place where we should absolutely be cutting. That’s a poor use of our resources. We spend billions of dollars in outsourcing to companies when we could use our public service,” Singh said, offering his suggestions on where cuts could be made.
“We’ll watch very closely to make sure this government doesn’t cut to make things even more painful for Canadians,” he said.
Asked how Canadians will learn what ultimately is getting cut, Anand said that it would be reported publicly through future main and supplementary estimates documents that are tabled in the House of Commons.