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Ontario Budget Submission: Fall 2020

Introduction

When the COVID-19 pandemic took Ontario into its grip in March, the postponement of the spring Budget became one of many impacts of the pandemic.   

In light of the endless repercussions of the pandemic on work and workplaces, and due to space constraints imposed for fall budget consultations, AMAPCEO is focusing its submission on the Ontario Public Service (OPS).

Despite that focus, it is important to also recognize the pandemic has illustrated the need for increased funding throughout the broader public sector, in areas such as public health and funding for arts and cultural organizations, as the province continues to fight the pandemic and as it focuses on economic recovery.


The Value of a Strong OPS

In our past two budget submissions, AMAPCEO has argued the hiring-freeze-fuelled reduction in the size of the OPS is misguided. We have demonstrated that prior to the hiring freeze the OPS was—by any measure—a lean organization.

The OPS is already a lean organization. Table 1 clearly shows that, based on population, Ontario’s has fewer public servants that other provinces. The OPS rate of 4.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions per 1,000 Ontarians is more than 1.5 public servants per 1,000 residents lower than the next most efficient public service in British Columbia. To put that into perspective, if the OPS was staffed at the same rate as BC’s public service the OPS would be 37 percent larger and boast more than 90,000 FTEs.

Table 1: Provincial Public Service Size, per 1,000 population

Table 1

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a competent and well-staffed public service. While health care has been in the forefront, the importance of critical public service roles extends well beyond.

Throughout the pandemic, AMAPCEO members have worked tirelessly to meet the evolving and rapidly changing needs of the many ministries they serve. Our members at the Ministry of Finance have been hard at work putting together two budgets this year. Our members at the Ministry of Education worked on planning an unprecedented school year while prioritizing the health and safety of students. Members throughout the OPS worked to draft new regulations and legislation with tight deadlines in the middle of a global health emergency.

The professionalism of AMAPCEO’s members has shone through.

While our members got the job done, this crisis can only serve as a reminder of the importance of a robust professional public service so Ontarians can continue to receive and trust the quality of the public services they rely on.


The OPS Workplace of the Future

Since March, all OPS employees who can do so have been working remotely. The swiftness with which the government acted to switch to remote work was remarkable.

Before the pandemic, the OPS would see tens of thousands of its employees go to work in downtown Toronto. It is no exaggeration to suggest that lives were saved by such a large employer immediately implement remote work for its staff. This was a team effort and both the government and our members can be proud of the transition. AMAPCEO applauds the government for their leadership on this.

Evidence across the OPS points to an increase in productivity for those working remotely.

Unfortunately, the pandemic is ever-changing and far from over.

We appreciate the pause of the back-to-work plan for now and recommend maintaining remote work policies until it is safe to transition back.

This is also an opportunity to rethink what the workplace can and should look like as we move forward. To what extent can work be done remotely? What of open-plan workspaces? Is there an opportunity for the government to save money by reducing the amount of leased office space?

There is much to consider as we move forward. AMAPCEO recommends that we work together to address these important questions through a collaborative process with the government and the OPS Employer


Footnotes

5 Statistics Canada, Population estimates on July 1st, by age and sex, Table: 17-10- 0005-01

6 Ontario, Open Data, OPS workforce demographics

7 British Columbia, Ministry of Finance, Budget 2019, p. 24.

8 Alberta, Treasury Board and Finance, Budget 2018: Fiscal Plan, p. 151.

9 Saskatchewan, Public Service Commission, Annual Report for 2017-18, p. 24.

10 Manitoba, Civil Service Commission, Annual Report for 2017-18, p. 49.

11 Quebec, Secrétariat du Conseil du trésor, L’effectif de la fonction publique du Québec 2017-2018, p. 3.

12 New Brunswick, Department of Human Resources, Workforce Profile—2015, p. 1 (The most recent headcount publicly available for New Brunswick is from 2015.).

13 Nova Scotia, Public Service Commission, Moving Toward Equity—2017-18, p. 6.

14 Prince Edward Island, Department of Finance, 44th Annual Statistical Review—2017, p. 109.

15 Newfoundland and Labrador, Human Resource Secretariat, Departmental Salary Report—2017/18, p. 293.


Additional Resources