This article appeared on CBC News.

A Halifax-based advocacy group says Newfoundland and Labrador should cut the number of its employees to deal with its significant fiscal challenges.
Marco Navarro-Genie, president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said that his group found that Newfoundland and Labrador has more public workers per capita than most other provinces.

“The Atlantic provinces are indeed above the average, with Newfoundland and Labrador having the highest ratio of all the provinces in the country,” Navarro-Genie said.

He said this difference from the average is costing the province $880 million per year, and that there are options to reduce the number of public servants gradually and avoid layoffs.

“There doesn’t have to be massive layoffs, because that’s what normally these numbers would suggest. But, simply if you started, for example, not to replenish certain jobs because people start to retire, this is normally called attrition,” he said.

Navarro-Genie said attrition could put the province close to the average within four to five years, but he understands there are also issues of geography to consider.

He said the province could also consider cutting back on the $760 million of its spending on Muskrat Falls.

Impacts on service

Jerry Earle, president of NAPE, said that public sector layoffs would have a significant effect on services for taxpayers.

Earle said that layoffs should be seen as a last recourse. He said nursing and paramedicine fields are already suffering from shortages of workers and that there is no room for more cuts.

He said attrition is “the lesser of two evils” when compared to layoffs, and suggested raising the HST as a difficult, but manageable solution.

Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, also said that public layoffs would have a substantial effect.

“We would like to see government do absolutely everything possible to minimize the impact that is going to have on the province,” he said during an appearance Tuesday on CBC Radio’s CrossTalk.

“That includes solutions that we put forward like looking to the private sector, the not-for-profit sector, to be able to provide some programs and services or build infrastructure in a way that allows government to focus their money on core services.”

Alexander said that partnerships between the public and private sector would keep people working and save the government money.