Posted by Tim Stobbs on March 25, 2010
The Saskatchewan provincial budget came down yesterday and I can’t help but noticing a similar theme to the federal budget: knife wielding is now in fashion. Both budgets were focusing on reducing the civil service size and spoke of efficiency and doing more with less.
This is particularly interesting since in the Saskatchewan context since the unions have been dealing with an NDP government for decades prior which has typically been fairly union friendly. So I suspect as union negotiations for wage increases are going to find some very low offers and tough choices brought to them over the next few years from the current Saskatchewan Party government.
It is sort of an interesting twist on the entire auto sector bailout negotiation tactic of: take less or you all lose your jobs. For a while I suspected unions considered the public service a bit different from private sector since after all governments don’t go bankrupt. Well obviously with the crisis situations in Greece’s debt is showing what happens when you ignore a problem for too long. Government can in fact run into debt problems and when they hit that wall the cost cutting isn’t subtle or fair. It’s take a pay cut and the government still hacks services and jobs with an axe rather than a knife and then raises taxes.
I hope everyone, including non-union staff, has been paying attention. This is what happens when you have too much debt. You lose any easy choices and all that is left is the hard ones. So everyone has to start living in their means a bit more and using debt a bit less all the way from individual families to all levels of government. What of course is really interesting is we haven’t even dealt with those big cost items on the horizon of an aging population and health care. I suspect we will have an interesting decade or two in front of us.