Aging Opportunity

Media Appearances, Public Sector, Frontier Centre

Did you know that Saskatchewan has significantly more government employees than all other province in Canada?

This glut of government employees means taxpayers are paying  a small bundle each year. Fortunately, the solution is fairly pain free for politicians – as bureaucrats retire, don’t rehire.

To be more specific: don’t automatically rehire. To be sure, in some cases you may have to fill key spots, but overall, the government should have the flexibility to move people around and reduce the total number of staff on the government payroll; at least down to the national average.

Consider research from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy that shows per person, Saskatchewan had the highest number of provincial and municipal employees in all of Canada for 2010. The study uses Statistics Canada data and notes Saskatchewan had 114 people working for either the provincial and municipal government for every 1,000 citizens. That number is significantly higher than the Canadian average of just 84 municipal and provincial government employees per thousand citizens.

Clearly, if Saskatchewan could get by with 84 employees per 1,000 citizens (like other provinces do), your family could save a small fortune each year as a result of lower government staffing costs.

While the study didn’t place a figure on potential savings for Saskatchewan taxpayers, it did provide one for Manitoba; another province with an over-sized government workforce. At 103 municipal and provincial bureaucrats per thousand citizens, the Frontier Centre calculated that Manitoba could save its taxpayers $1.2 billion in salary and benefit costs each year merely by bringing its workforce size in-line with the national average.

Given Saskatchewan has a larger government workforce than Manitoba, no doubt Saskatchewan taxpayers could see, at worst similar savings and at best larger savings if government downsized to the national average.

Thankfully, scaling back Saskatchewan’s bloated bureaucracy shouldn’t be too hard as the civil service is aging and many are nearing retirement.

Freedom of information data obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shows that over the next ten years, 4,329 provincial government employees are expected to retire. At the municipal level, it’s not known how many employees are about to ride off into the sunset, but it’s probably safe to assume many are also nearing retirement.

Fortunately, the provincial government already appears to be heading down the bureaucracy reduction path. In their 2010-11 budget, they announced a goal of reducing the number of provincial employees by 15 per cent over four years. Freedom of information data obtained by the CTF suggests the provincial government has already achieved some success in that area; having reduced the number of full time employees from 11,962 in 2009-10 to 11,574 in 2010-11.

Certainly there’s more work to do, but we’ve seen a step in the right direction.

Continuing to reduce the bureaucracy will allow the province to continue to pay off the province’s core debt and reduce both school taxes and income taxes.

At the local level, reducing bloated staffing levels will allow local governments to invest more funds in infrastructure, pay off debt and perhaps even freeze property taxes.

Clearly, there’s savings to be had when it comes to reducing the number of government employees in Saskatchewan. Fortunately for taxpayers and politicians, achieving such savings can come without much in the way of labour pain.