POLITICS

Quebec Aims To Chop Number Of Bureaucrats By 2 Per Cent

11/25/2014 03:59 EST | Updated 01/25/2015 05:59 EST
QUEBEC - The Quebec civil service is being put on a diet.

The government wants to shed two per cent of its roughly 60,000 bureaucrats as part of its cost-cutting measures, Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux said Tuesday.

That translates into about 1,150 jobs on the chopping block, although Coiteux is holding out hope that attrition through impending retirements will take care of them.

The announcement comes as the government prepares to table salary offers for public-sector employees ahead of what promises to be tough negotiations.

The Couillard government has made posting a balanced budget in 2015-16 its top political priority and has recently announced plans to hike daycare fees.

Coiteux said ditching the objective of a balanced budget is out of the question and that provincial employees will have to take into account the government's commitment to financial rigour.

"My message (to unions) is we want to work constructively with them," he told a news conference.

"We want to work constructively with everybody. Everybody has to make an effort. Our employees also have to make an effort. The leaders of Quebec have to make an effort.

"We are working together to get the job done for our children and the ones that will follow."

Coiteux had another message for unions: the government will not back down regardless of whatever pressure tactics they may employ.

"We will succeed because we are determined to succeed....We're not going to give up."

He also said Quebecers want a government with "the courage to take the actions that are needed."

Senior civil servants will not get performance bonuses and the number of contracts awarded to non-government consultants will be reduced to a bare minimum.

The key health and education sectors will not be affected.

Civil servants will have their expenses closely monitored, while the premier's office will have to authorize out-of-province trips by cabinet ministers.

"If we are to balance, on a sustainable basis, the budget here in Quebec, we have to act on the costs of the public sector," Coiteux said. "And 60 per cent is basically remuneration, so we have to act on that front too."

A government-commissioned committee released a report Sunday and argued Quebec should scale back funding for municipalities and agriculture.

It also recommended further hikes to the cost of daycare, ambulance fees and tuition for international students.

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