Hon. Jane Cordy:
Senator Harder, between 2008 and 2017, 1,513 federal public service jobs were eliminated in Atlantic Canada, and 1,383 of those jobs were lost in my province of Nova Scotia. That’s over 90 per cent of Atlantic Canada job losses from Nova Scotia. During this same time period, federal public service jobs in Ottawa have increased by 4,924.
Senator Harder, historically, one third of the federal public service jobs were located in the National Capital Region, with the other two thirds of the jobs distributed throughout regions across the country. Over the last 10 years, the trend shows that the federal government has shifted jobs out of the regions and into the National Capital Region.
The loss of these jobs in Nova Scotia is significant, costing an estimated $830 million in lost wages to Nova Scotians over the past 10 years.
What is the reason for the disproportionate job losses in Nova Scotia while there are significant job increases in the National Capital Region? What considerations are being made by the government to ensure a fair distribution of federal public service job hires across the regions in our country?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question. It’s an important one, not just for her province but for other provinces outside of the National Capital Region. I will obviously inquire of the minister responsible.
I should note, though, that the President of Treasury Board will be the minister before us for question period on our return. This is a responsibility, at least collectively, for the Government of Canada, by the member from Nova Scotia, who is also President of Treasury Board.
I do know that in the course of the last 10 years, there has been significant consolidation of certain services in departments like, for example, Veteran Affairs, and Fisheries and Oceans, which have been opened in the last couple of years to respond to the need to have workers in Canada where the community needs them.
Senator Cordy: I thank you very much. These would be good questions to ask Minister Brison because $830 million in lost wages to Nova Scotians over 10 years is huge for a small province. These are good-paying wages, and when you have reasonably good-paying wages, they are wages that go to restaurants and to use the shops and services in small towns and cities.
The hiring trend is very troubling to me, and Nova Scotians are worried that as the federal government does continue to add federal public service jobs, they will continue to be concentrated in the Ottawa area.
In the budget this week, the government committed to increasing the number of employees working on the Phoenix pay issues at the pay centre and satellite offices to over 1,500. Would you also inquire when you’re speaking with Minister Brison — or maybe we could ask him when he comes here — to provide this chamber a breakdown of where those employees will be located? Hopefully they will be located in the regions and not in Ottawa.
Will the government make assurances that a fair proportion of these new hires will be distributed to the regions?
Senator Harder: I’ll undertake both to seek the answers to those questions but also to ensure that the minister is prepared should those questions arise when he is here when we next sit.