Politics

Trudeau government’s $500M spending cut scarcely affects services: report | CBC News

Most organizations and departments affected by the Liberal government’s plan to shave $500 million in spending say the cuts won’t affect their services, according to a new report from the independent parliamentary budget officer.

The PBO, which asked all 68 affected organizations to provide a breakdown of their planned savings, published the report on Monday.

Only four reported some reduction to service levels, the report said.

Last November, the federal government unveiled plans to cut down government spending, starting with an effort to eliminate $500 million in spending on professional services and travel in 2023-24.

The federal government says “professional services” refers to expert assistance and advice, training, and operational and maintenance services.

Over the next five years, the government says, additional promised reductions in spending will save $15.4 billion.

In an interview with CBC, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux said he’d be “very surprised” if the current cuts have any impact on services given how they are focused on travel and outsourcing costs.

A man in a suit sits in a committee room.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux says the $500 million spending cut is a ‘drop in the bucket,’ given that the federal government is expected to spend more than $440 billion this fiscal year. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Giroux also said $500 million is a “small drop in the bucket” considering how much the federal government spends in a fiscal year.

In November, Treasury Board President Anita Anand tabled a document estimating more than $440 billion dollars in spending over the 2023-24 fiscal year.

At the time, Anand said $350 million of the spending cuts would affect outsourcing and contractors. Travel costs would drop by $150 million.

One organization that did report a service cut is Correctional Service Canada, which said travel spending reductions will affect some inmate movements, including in-person court appearances.

The Treasury Board claims the spending reductions won’t affect full-time equivalent employees, known as FTEs.

Only Public Service and Procurement Canada identified a reduction of 49 FTEs “for positions that are already vacant and not being backfilled,” the report said.

Some organizations finding savings elsewhere

Three government departments — National Defence, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the Privy Council Office (PCO) — did not report a breakdown of savings, the PBO said. 

National Defence told the PBO the $211 million in savings for the department is not associated with any specific program. Instead, the money comes from reducing the amount of lapsed funding that can be carried forward and spent in the next fiscal year.

ISC reported finding $17 million in savings in their departmental reserve. 

PCO told the budget office its  $1.3 million in savings “represents a general reduction across the organization” through such measures as streamlining management structures.

A woman in a blue blazer speaks in a press conference room.
President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand says she is ‘encouraged’ by the fact that most departments have not reported disruptions in service delivery. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

In a media statement, Anand said that she was “encouraged by the fact that 94 per cent of departments reported no disruptions to service delivery.”

“This was an important and robust exercise that considered the financial sustainability of each proposal and ensured that future service delivery disruptions do not occur,” she added.

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