March 24, 2010
Saskatchewan Budget 2010: Quality of our public services sure to suffer
Regina — Brad Wall stated that this year’s budget would lead Saskatchewan down “a different path.” Unfortunately, in a manner that is far too reminiscent of other conservative governments, the Saskatchewan Party has decided to make the public service bear the brunt of the government’s financial miscalculations.
The government plans to eliminate 15 percent of the civil service over four years along with the complete elimination of Saskatchewan Communications Network, the public educational broadcaster. Whether the government accomplishes these reductions through attrition, it will still mean a considerably smaller public service to deliver public programs.
The government seems to believe that the implementation of lean management-styles and other New Public Management reforms will be able to ensure the continuing delivery of quality public services with the bare minimum of public servants.
However these types of reforms – sometimes referred to as “management-by-stress” – have been roundly criticized in other jurisdictions as leading to the erosion of service delivery, as too much emphasis on cost reduction and the pursuit of efficiency at all costs leads to flawed policies with short-term gains, undermining the capacity of government to take a long-term perspective on issues such as education, technology, health and the environment.
The public service can only be expected to do so much with less support, less resources and less employees. No flavour of the month management style can remedy an under-staffed and over-loaded public service.
This government needs to be much clearer on what types of reforms and cuts it intends to introduce in the public sector and how these will affect service delivery in the province. Until the government does this, it simply stretches the imagination that we can lose 15 percent our public servants and not experience poorer quality services.
Simon Enoch, PhD
Saskatchewan Office of the Canadian Centre
for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)