With Budget season upon us, Nova Scotians will be keeping a close eye on the province’s finances with some interest. Accordingly, the Nova Scotia Government will be looking to find efficiencies as a means to reduce its deficit and make good on its promise to put its finances in order. One such a place to explore may be the size and cost of Nova Scotia’s public sector.

Recent research by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) demonstrates that the size and cost of the civilian public sector in Nova Scotia is significantly larger and more costly than the national average of the other Canadian provinces. Our research used 2013 data from Statistics Canada. Report found here.

Where the national average for public sector employment as a share of total jobs is 18 per cent, Nova Scotia’s is 21.8 per cent. Similarly, when we look at the number of provincial employees per number of residents, the average across Canadian provinces is 84 employees per 1,000 and Nova Scotia has 99 (85 for NB; 95 for PEI and 109 for NL).

Nova Scotia’s 15 public sector workers per 1,000 above the Canadian provincial average represent an important expense to the provincial budget, especially considering that public sector wages constitute the single largest expense for provincial governments. Our study calculates that the number of workers above the provincial average adds an extra $836 million to Nova Scotia’s public sector wage bill.

Nova Scotia public employees perform valuable tasks for Nova Scotians, without which no modern government could run. Given its size, however, bringing the province’s public sector to the Canadian average should be one of the important considerations among the several strategies the province of Nova Scotia could pursue to reduce spending.

Marco Navarro-Génie is the president of AIMS. AIMS is a charitable Atlantic Canadian research institute based in Halifax. Article originally published in the Canadian-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Newsletter; Vol.3.