Quebec is the only province whose changes in provincial employee numbers clearly diverge from the predominant trend in Canada. From 1981 to 1992, public service employment grew, of course, but at a lesser pace than that observed in the other provinces (i.e., an average annual percentage change of +0.7%). Following a short decline from 1992 to 1995, with an average annual percentage change of -2.2%, Quebec provincial employment again rose from 1996 to 2003. This increase was particularly evident from 1998 to 2003 (average annual percentage change of +2.5%). Since 2003, Quebec has stood out from the other provinces in Canada on account of the net decrease in the size of its provincial administration (-1.5% from 2003 to 2010). One of the reasons behind the changes in this indicator for Quebec is to be found in the increased number of functions assumed by the Government of Quebec since 1992, all as an outgrowth of the delegation of three responsibilities previously discharged by the federal government:
levying of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and anti-tax evasion efforts. When coupled with the implementation of the Quebec Sales Tax (QST), this delegation of responsibility entailed the creation of 3,050 full-time jobs at the Quebec ministère du Revenu;
immigration; the 1991 Canada-Quebec Agreement on Immigration governing the reception and integration of immigrants led to the creation of 690 full-time jobs at the Quebec ministère des Relations avec les citoyens et de l’Immigration;
in 1997-1998, the Canada-Quebec Labour Market Agreement entailed the transfer of 1,084 full-time employees from the federal government to the Government of Quebec, specifically to the agency known as Emploi-Québec. In addition, the creation of Emploi-Québec in 1998 resulted in the integration of 1000 employees from the former Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'œuvre (Quebec manpower development agency) into the Quebec provincial public administration.
The decrease in the size of Quebec’s public service owes to the implementation of a workforce reduction plan whose goal was to downsize the provincial bureaucracy by 20% between 2004 and 2014. However, between 2007 and 2009, this workforce grew by 3.6%, thus wiping out a considerable portion of the decrease achieved since the government first began to implement its reduction plan. The latest data, for 2010, show that the number of Quebec public service employees is practically the same as that reported in 2009, thus confirming that the current government has found it hard to meet its workforce reduction commitments.
In contrast, Ontario’s provincial administration has grown significantly since 2002 (+13.3% from 2002 to 2010). This increase offsets the impact of the wave of position abolishments initiated beginning in 1995 by the Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris. However, 2010 data shows that the Ontario government cut drastically in his workforce (-8% when compared to 2008). This decrease takes back the provincial government workforce to the size it had in 1997. A similar process of rebalancing employment levels following a period of job cuts can be seen in Alberta (+15.6% from 2002 to 2010). For all of Canada, the pattern of change takes the form of a normal curve, meaning that the number of provincial employees at the beginning of the period in question is close to that recorded at the end of this period. In terms of net changes, only Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia had fewer provincial employees in 2010 than in 1981.
Overall, since 1996, there has been a slowdown in the downsizing provincial public governments. Having assumed more radical forms in Ontario and Alberta, this process was driven by the desire to reduce public expenditure in a period of anti-deficit measures. Ontario’s 1996 low reflects the major strikes that occurred in all areas coming under the authority of the provincial government – and particularly in the Ontario public service, as defined in the FMS (specifically, the strikes had the result of lowering the number of paycheques issued to the names of different employees, the basis on which Statistics Canada has devised the indicator it refers to as “persons”). More importantly, however, it reflects the gradual laying-off of close to 10,600 of 81,000 public administration employees (figures expressed in full-time equivalents (FTEs) over a two-year period).