Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada represents 180,000 members. Most of them are employed with the federal public service and its agencies.
The previous Conservative government cut billions of dollars a year from public services. Our members know how these cuts have affected services. In a moment I will talk about how some of these have affected the Atlantic region and the country.
During the last election, the Liberal Party campaigned on an anti-austerity theme that Canadians clearly supported. We encourage the government to follow this approach. This is not the time to further weaken the economy by subjecting the federal public sector to further austerity measures.
As a large employer and a key provider of social infrastructure, the government should lead by example by investing in public services and the workers who provide them. The Liberal election platform promised to improve the quality of public services, including reducing wait times and increasing access to in-person service. The only way this can be achieved is by reinvesting in the federal public service to ensure that staffing levels meet Canadian needs.
Don't be distracted by claims of greater efficiencies and better service simply through improving technology. Inspecting food or aircraft, processing EI and pension claims, helping small businesses understand their tax obligations, protecting our fish stocks, or maintaining our national parks, to name just a few services, these require people.
We are pleased that the government is following through on the commitment to reopen the Veterans Affairs offices that have been closed, several of them in Atlantic Canada. But this is just a start to repairing the damage.
Parks Canada's Cape Breton Highlands Links was privatized. This is a historic site. Residents of the community were expropriated from their lands in order for this park to be created. In return, they were promised good-paying jobs. Parks Canada issued an RFP and placed Highlands Links, a world-famous golf course, into private hands. Privatization of the park will end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars more than if the facilities had remained in public hands.
Three years ago, the Conservative government closed a number of search and rescue stations, in spite of the warnings from communities on both coasts. Again, we acknowledge the government's commitment to reopen the Kitsilano coast guard station on the west coast and St. John's marine rescue sub-centre in Newfoundland. The big question is whether there will be the necessary staff to ensure proper coverage. We believe our union should be among the stakeholders who provide the advice on how these facilities can best respond to the communities' needs, as our members are among the experts who deliver these services.
As a last example, I have to mention the workers who provide benefits, such as employment insurance, Canada pension plan, and old age security. These workers provide a lifeline to the most vulnerable Canadians. Wait times for Canadians to access their hard-earned benefits are simply too long. The government must reinvest in service delivery and ensure that there are enough people employed to deliver these important benefits in a timely manner.
Our federal services cannot be allowed to deteriorate any further. We believe this government can and must consider progressive taxation measures to increase revenue that will allow it to invest in public services and programs that stimulate economic growth—programs such as a national child care system and the expansion of the Canada pension plan.
Corporation tax levels must be examined. Cuts to corporate taxes have not resulted in private sector reinvestment but have helped to starve the public treasury. It's public knowledge that there is considerable lost revenue in offshore tax havens alone, yet the Canada Revenue Agency has cut auditor positions, the very people needed to help ensure that everyone pays their fair share.
Our members expect to see tangible evidence in this upcoming budget of this government's commitment to restore federal public services.