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Should ‘efficiency of service’ always be the top priority?

Posted on October 8, 2019 by Sunny South News

Premier Jason Kenney says Albertans should judge him harshly should he not fulfill a promise to balance the budget in the next four years.

The question remains however, are Albertans prepared to judge the United Conservatives on how they accomplish this? According to the recently released MacKinnon Report, that feat needs to be accomplished in the public sector through attrition, farming out services to the private sector and salary restraint of employees. Each one comes with its own cause and effect, and whether those results are something you’re interested in doesn’t change the fact that, good or bad, there will be an impact.

Just for today, let’s talk about attrition. As a tidbit, attrition in its exact definition describes a sustained attack with the goal of weakening something.

Employee attrition means eliminating jobs through any means besides layoffs – retirement, resignations, even, say, a health issue forcing someone out. From an employer’s perspective, attrition might be seen as a good thing. From a worker’s perspective, attrition can often feel a lot more like its true definition.

Regardless, the end result is making jobs disappear.

Obviously, the first reality in this situation is less public spending. The job paid $50,000 or $100,000, or maybe even $750,000, and now it doesn’t. A significant portion of government revenue is taxation, therefore that saves the taxpayers a significant portion of that salary. Simple.

Unfortunately, and contrary to the beliefs of many, the realities of job elimination continue well past this, no matter which sector was paying for it. Those salaries that came off the books also leave the economy, as do the tax dollars that came with it, meaning the only way that gets replaced is if the private sector turns creates the same job or the equivalent salary.

Free-market-loyalist rhetoric aside, that’s not likely. So, if the all-knowing market doesn’t deem them necessary, then those jobs must be pointless, right? But, then, for how long have they been pointless? Presumably, these folks about to retire spent more than the NDP’s four years on the job, so those that won’t be replaced started under previous conservative governments. Is Kenney saying these jobs have been a waste for decades? I’m sure some will agree with that sentiment. It’s not like I don’t know where I live.

But for those retiring Baby Boomers leaving those jobs, I imagine it has to give at least some pause being told their career had no meaning. What’s worse, is judging by past election statistics, it’s likely many of those soon-to-be retirees just voted UCP. I guess I think it’s a little funny that, while they may have used that career to build a nice life to further enjoy, the guy they trust to govern the rest of it thinks the last 35-or-so years was “low priority and wasteful.”

But what if some of those jobs aren’t actually wasteful? What if some of those tasks are important, or even essential? Surely, across the entire public spectrum, someone, somewhere is doing an administrative duty that matters.

The only possible outcome in these situations is having another job (person) absorb new, added work. I mean, really, most of us work in the private sector, which is supposedly more efficient (it’s not, but that’s for another time) and I can’t be the only one around here who has witnessed job elimination followed by extra work, followed by lower morale, followed by decreased quality in product. Am I? Kenney is oh-so candidly declaring his plan to demand that exact thing. He’s quite literally telling hospitals, doctors, schools and teachers they will have to do more with less. If your true belief is that all of the above are slacking off, simply getting paid “way too much for a cushy government job,” then fine, all I can say is I hope whatever effect comes with job elimination in education and health care does not land on your doorstep in any way.

For those of you willing to at least entertain the idea that some of these jobs mattered, and that not everyone who teaches, heals or administrates either is lazy, then I only suggest you pay attention as the effects arrive. Be willing to accept that some of these results could be negative, and then ask yourself one question.

When it comes to education and health care, is “efficiency of service” really the most important priority?

This editorial originated in the Medicine Hat News.

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