Ball says he would cut public-service

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From The Telegram


Ball says he would cut public-service jobs through attrition


James McLeod

The Telegram

Published on November 24, 2015


Liberal ‘no job losses’ promise only means no layoffs


[photo caption - Liberal Leader Dwight Ball is riding high in the polls, but ever since his party released its full platform Sunday, he’s been under increasing scrutiny to defend his plans to balance the budget. While the Liberals have been saying there would be “no job losses” in the public service, Ball now says that his government may eliminate positions through attrition]


Liberal Leader Dwight Ball now says he is open to shrinking the size of the public service through attrition, but he insisted in an interview that attrition doesn’t contradict a Liberal Party promise that there would be no job losses in the public service.


On the one hand, Liberal star candidates Siobhan Coady and Paul Antle both posted messages to social media Tuesday saying that a Liberal government would be committed to “no job losses in the public service.”


However, Ball said jobs could indeed disappear from the public service if the Liberals decide to eliminate positions through attrition.


“I think people would retire, and there would be situations where we would not necessarily replace people, but that would only come with consultation with people in the department,” Ball told The Telegram.


Ball has been on the defensive this week, after his party released the budget forecasts which explain how it will pay for its campaign promises over the next four years.


All of the Liberals’ fiscal plans are built on the budget tabled by the Progressive Conservative government last spring, but those budget numbers are based, in part, on a five-year attrition plan announced by the Tories.


Finance Minister Ross Wiseman said that the attrition plan — for every 10 retirements across the civil service, the government will replace eight people — will save the government around $300 million.


So, if the Liberals are going to toss out the Tories’ attrition plan, as Ball has said they will, then there’s around $300 million in extra spending the Liberals haven’t accounted for in the costing of their campaign platform.


Ball insisted it’s not as simple as that, because some positions are actually revenue-generating, such as the people who collect government fines.


But he did say that in an effort to save money, the Liberals will eliminate government positions through attrition. He repeatedly emphasized that the Liberals will not lay anybody off.


He said that’s not really at odds with what Antle and Coady were posting on social media, because reducing the number of positions in government isn’t the same as a job loss.


“You can call it what you want. I don’t see it. What I see there is the person is retired, the position will just not be filled,” he said. “So that person does not lose their job. So it’s not a job loss for the individual.”


None of this will sit well with Jerry Earle, president of NAPE, the province’s largest public-sector union.


Earle said that when Ball promised that there would be no public sector job losses, NAPE took it to mean that the civil service would stay the same size.


“When I hear no job losses, that would be no job lost through layoffs, no job lost through an attrition plan,” Earle said.


When pressed, Ball said he has no idea how many civil service jobs he might cut through attrition.


He said those would be management decisions which would be made after consulting with individual government departments


“I have not anticipated that, because it would happen within the department,” Ball said. “These are hypothetical situations that you’re trying to address here today.”

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