The claim: Defending his plan to cut 100,000 Ontario public service jobs in four years, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak recently said “but you know how many people are on the public payroll in Ontario today? 1.1 million.” Trimming 100,000 would return Ontario to 2009 levels, which is “fair, reasonable and balanced,” he said.
The background: Among his proposed cuts, Hudak says he would trim about 9,700 “non-teaching positions” in the education system, and shave the numbers of people employed within Ontario’s “hydro bureaucracy.”
He says “we need to pare down that massive hydro bureaucracy. They have 11,000 people in the hydro bureaucracy making ($100,000) a year. Can you believe that? Eleven thousand! Let’s reduce that dramatically and pass on the savings to ratepayers.”
In his bid to reduce the size and cost of government, Hudak says he would spare police, doctors and nurses. But Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne says his budget cuts would jeopardize the jobs of Ontario firefighters, personal support workers for the elderly, teachers, and meat, water and nursing home inspectors.
What are some of the other positions in the 1.1 million that could be impacted?
Statistics Canada keeps data on the number of Ontarians employed in the province’s public sector.
According to figures from 2012, there were 88,000 positions in the category “provincial general government.” Those workers include everyone from academics at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education who write curriculum for schools, to civil engineers who decide where new highways will go, and social policy experts tackling child poverty issues.
Those in the health and social service category include hospital and home care workers, and social services not in government, such as group home workers, workers in children’s mental health services, and children’s aid employees. The entire group adds up to 239,000 workers.
Universities, colleges, and vocational and trade institutions account for 148,000 workers.
Teachers, educational assistants, principals and office support staff at schools, fall under the school boards category, as do administrative staff and managers of the school boards themselves. The group accounts for 288,000 workers in the province.
The provincial government business enterprises category includes the LCBO, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, Hydro One, and Ontario Power Generation. This category accounts for 39,000 positions.
So far that’s about 800,000 Ontario public service positions.
Hudak includes 329,000 posts at the municipal level in the broader public service — everyone from parks and recreation staff, ambulance, police and fire, library, sewer and water, to those in garbage collection — again, with the caveat that police would be spared from cuts.
It’s assumed he could expand cuts to this sector by slashing funding to municipalities, who would in turn have to reduce the number of municipal workers.
The verdict: Ontario’s Public Service Employees Union says it’s wrong to say the proposed cuts are “fair, reasonable and balanced.”
OPSEU political economist Randy Robinson says the number of public service workers in Ontario has always fallen closely in line with overall population numbers in the province.
“We are right in line with population (growth) over the long term average,” Robinson argues.
The 1.1 million positions works out to just under 10 per cent of Ontario’s population, and just below the 12 per cent average since 1975, according to OPSEU’s figures.