Friday, February 19, 2010

CD Howe Institute, Right for Once

I'm not a "small government" kinda guy... mostly because that particular term doesn't actually mean anything. There's nothing quite as moronic as telling everyone that will listen that you're against too much government, or too much tax, or too much waste. No shit.

I think a robust public service is incredibly important. The policy capacity of a country is a vital component to well run government. The Liberals figured that out after Martin slashed and burned a wide swath of Ottawa, and so, for the past few years, the PS has undergone a revitalization, an attempt to make public servants proud to serve again. More importantly, an attempt to make people want to serve again. A key component of this has always been to offer benefits that one can't get in the private sector. To attract the best and brightest you need to provide work people want to do and perks that they can't get elsewhere. It's a pretty simple idea, and it's why the foaming at the mouth of conservatives at those pampered public servants has always been especially annoying to me. Frankly, I've always assumed it's just jealousy.

However, times change, and our times are shockingly different to the times of our parents and grandparents. It was once a given that employers would provide for their employees after a lifetime of service. Now, as anyone new to the workforce will tell you, you're beyond lucky to find an employer that will match your RRSP contributions.

The reality, as the C.D. Howe Institute is saying, is that the public service is now completely out of step with the rest of the job market. We can argue about whether their benefits are too good, or whether the private sector no longer provides enough, but in the end it doesn't really matter, the gulf is there. So, as the CPC turns towards the PS (I picture Harper and Flaherty sitting down together with fat red markers and Wagner playing in the background), I think that the pension deals struck with future bureaucrats are fair game. A significant increase in contributions is completely fair, not overly onerous on well-paid civil servants, and it certainly won't scare people off from applying to government jobs. When looking for savings, the government must trim the fat but stay well clear of the bone. This policy just makes sense.


  1. As one of those (lucky enough) to have an employer that matches RRSP contributions, I can say I mostly agree with the point made


    As one of those relying on a retirement plan where the employer matches RRSP contributions that due to market flatness will amount to sweet-f-all when I retire, I may be depending on a well funded happily employed PS to send me welfare checks when I'm 72....

  2. My girlfriend is a public servant and, if I behave myself, we'll be together for awhile yet! I'll also probably end up in the PS once I finish my Masters next year, so I have a bit of flesh in the game here.

    However, if the ultimate goal of government hiring practices is to get the best they can, surely bumping the contributions of the employees up to 50% within the existing plan doesn't lessen the attractiveness of a job in the federal government.

    Lately I've really been questioning just how sustainable generous pension schemes are. As much as I'd love a nice pension, I also can't help but feel put out at the fact that my generation is paying dearly for the golden years of our parents.

  3. Lately I've been questioning how sustainable ANY of our retirement schemes are. When I do the math, it don't add up. I honestly believe in 20-30 years, when the RRSP generation starts to retire, we are in for some serious issues.

    But hey, I'm just an IT guy with a community college diploma. It takes a real economist to make 1 and 1 add up to 3.

  4. Exactly. But have no fear Catelli, our Prime Minister is an economist!