According to reports, 528,347 federal and provincial government employees received at least one pay raise during the pandemic
These days it seems there are three certainties in life: death, taxes and bigger government paycheques.
Even a pandemic that sent thousands of workers to the ranks of the unemployed couldn’t stop the iron law of government wage increases. The pandemic revealed the divide between those behind the golden government gates that shield them from financial reality and the taxpayers who will be left paying the growing tab.
According to government documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, 528,347 federal and provincial government employees received at least one pay raise during the pandemic.
Those growing salaries will come from the pockets of workers who took pay cuts or lost their jobs during lockdowns and the many small business owners who were forced to close their doors.
Not a single federal or provincial government reduced pay during lockdowns, according to research from Secondstreet.org.
Many municipal employees are also riding the gravy train. More than 34,000 employees at the city of Toronto received a raise during lockdowns in 2020, and so did nearly 14,000 city of Calgary employees and 11,400 employees at the city of Ottawa. How many other municipalities handed out raises?
It’s fair for politicians to stop these raises even if they were built into a contract. What’s unfair is making Canadians who took a pay cut, lost their job or business to pay for these raises.
Stopping these pay raises shouldn’t be rocket science. After all, politicians control the purse strings. If union bosses don’t want to accept haircuts, they can be the ones to hand out pink slips to their members. That was the strategy former Alberta premier Ralph Klein employed to implement a five per cent wage reduction when he had to extinguish Alberta’s deficit fire.
With 338 members of Parliament, you’d think one of them could figure out a way to stop these raises. But you’d be wrong. The feds agreed to new contracts for thousands of its employees that included pay raises during the middle of the pandemic and as the debt ballooned towards the now-shattered $1-trillion mark.
It’s a good bet that many politicians haven’t the foggiest clue of how many bureaucrats received a raise during lockdowns. But given the sheer cost of government labour and the mess that is our government finances, politicians should be considering taxpayers’ ability to pay before rubber-stamping raises.
Then again, it would be tough for politicians to force a hard bargain when they’re helping themselves to raises.
While you and yours struggled through COVID-19, your representative in Ottawa pocketed two pay increases. Backbench MPs are now receiving $6,900 more than they did pre-pandemic, while the prime minister will pocket an extra $13,800.
Canadian Taxpayer Federation supporters received correspondence from more than 100 MPs – Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats – who either didn’t support the politician pay raise or committed to donating their raise to charity. With all these MPs seemingly against the raises, why haven’t we heard a peep from party leaders about reversing the pandemic pay hikes?
Taxpayers are also paying for more bureaucrats.
Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland claims that “we have recovered 106 per cent of the jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic.” But these new jobs come with a bigger tax bill for the private sector.
This follows years of federal bureaucrat increases. Between 2017 and 2021, the federal bureaucracy ballooned by 56,905 new employees. That’s more than 14,000 extra federal bureaucrats every year.
Politicians are tripping over themselves looking for more money to pay for their huge debts. They should start by looking in the mirror and forcing government to find ways to save money like millions of Canadians have done with their own budgets.
By Franco Terrazzano
Franco Terrazzano is the Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.