Do civil servants in Atlantic Canada earn too much money for what they do? Are too many of them routinely showing up at the public trough?

These are two, separate questions, and as provocative as they are, they tend to conflate in the hands of traditional, market-driven advocates who are convinced that small government – in the absence of no government at all – represents the best of all possible worlds.

Almost no one, these days, talks about efficient government, a notion that once held a place of prominence in the thinking rooms and chat parlours of the early 1960s across North America – and, of course, never again.

But does efficient government mean fewer workers doing less work or a greater number of workers doing more important work?

The Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) is convinced that the regional economy will be improved by radically cutting its various civil services.

“In all four Atlantic provinces, the public sector workforce is significantly larger, relative to population, than the national average,” writes Ben Eisen, director of research, and Shaun Fantauzzo, policy analyst at AIMS, in a recent commentary.

“Furthermore, the gap in average compensation between public and private sector workers is larger in the region than in most other parts of the country. As governments across the region seek to identify strategies to control deficits and net debt, working gradually to reduce the public sector wage bill is one option that deserves careful attention.”

Additionally, they contend,“according to recent data from Statistics Canada, in 2013, the civilian public sector in Canada accounted for 18 per cent of all jobs nationally. By comparison, this figure is 23 per cent in Atlantic Canada, where all provinces exceed the national average on this metric. In Prince Edward Island, the figure is 23 per cent, in Nova Scotia it is 22 per cent and in New Brunswick it is 20 per cent. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 28 per cent of all jobs are found in the civilian public sector, the highest level in the country.”

*This article appeared in the Times and Transcript