Overkill

Institute says government jobs are plentiful,
too plentiful, in Atlantic Canada

v26n1_watercooler_publicsectorIt’s long been believed that Atlantic Canada has a bloated public sector. Now the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies has numbers that show that’s true.

The Halifax-based economic and social policy think tank published a paper last fall stating that public sector employment, as a share of total jobs, is significantly higher than the rest of Canada. How much higher? In 2013, 17.3 per cent of all jobs were in the civilian public sector in Canada. In Atlantic Canada, by comparison, this figure was 22.6 per cent.

Ben Eisen, the Institute’s director of research and programmes, says the size of Atlantic Canada’s public sector, especially “sub-national” public sector employment (all non-federal government employees) should be a concern to business owners in the region. “The money to pay for this has to come from somewhere and it comes from a strained private sector tax base,” Eisen says. “It’s part of the reason taxes are so high here.”

Eisen adds that all four Atlantic provinces should be striving for a more balanced economy that encourages more private sector job creation. Part of what helps encourage more job growth in the private sector is when public sector jobs aren’t so plentiful.

Is there the political will in Atlantic Canada to reduce the size of its public sector? Eisen thinks there could be. “It’s in the debate much more,” he says. “There is a growing awareness this is an important issue.”

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