OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has penned an open letter to public servants as his party and the New Democrats fight to woo federal government workers in target ridings such as Ottawa Centre.
The Grits are trying to capitalize on the public, and often nasty, battle between the bureaucracy and the federal Conservatives.
The strained relationship has been the focus of attacks launched by public sector unions during the course of the campaign.
In July alone, the Public Service Alliance of Canada announced it would spend $2.7 million on a pre-election ad blitz to take aim at what it called "reckless Conservative cuts" to government departments.
The union also launched a Charter challenge against Bill C-59. It claims the legislation gives the government power to amend provisions in federal government employee contracts without negotiations.
In his letter made public on Friday, Trudeau vowed to bargain in good faith with public sector unions and work in partnership.
"Respect and trust for our public servants by the federal government has never been so low," the letter states. "I want to take this opportunity to assure you that I have a fundamentally different view than Stephen Harper of our public service."
The Liberals are dialing up their message to public servants as part of an aggressive campaign in ridings such as Ottawa Centre, held by the NDP's Paul Dewar since 2006.
Candidate Catherine McKenna claims she and her team have knocked on more than 70,000 doors in the lead up to October's vote.
"I see my role as meeting as many residents of Ottawa Centre, listening to their concerns and then advocating for their concerns in Parliament," she said at a Friday news conference,
Dewar said the public service is the dominant issue in his riding, which is saturated with federal employees.
"They want to make sure that we have an employer, in the government, that's actually going to value the work of the public service and restore the relationship of trust," Dewar said.
"We knew that this had been something that has been ... percolating over the years, the way in which the Conservatives really put public servants in a very distressing position. Sometimes they're not consulted, sometimes their advice is being absolutely ignored."
Dewar said he is concerned about how the Liberals will approach the bureaucracy, due to the party's move to slash the number of public service employees in the late 1990s.
He also highlighted how the Grits have indicated they will reduce the size of administration within the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces during this campaign.
"When you see that in their proposals in an election ... I worry greatly," Dewar said.
The Liberals have yet to indicate what this measure will mean in terms of job losses.
The Conservatives, meantime, have championed their plan to implement "savings measures" for the public service. It claims the federal government has saved the taxpayer more than $19 billion in 2015-2016 and beyond.
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