Did the Alberta NDP really increase public sector jobs?

One thing I often hear from UCP supporters is that the NDP drove up the deficit by creating more public sector jobs. So I took a look at the data.

When discussing employment with conservatives, I often hear claims like, “The only jobs the Alberta NDP created were government jobs.” I was curious about how true this was, so I decided to see whether the data supports this position.

According to the 2015–2016 provincial budget, there were the equivalent of 26,289 full-time people working within the various government ministries prior to the Alberta NDP taking office.

The 2019–2020 budget, on the other hand, shows that there were 26,734 full-time equivalent workers in government ministries by the time the NDP were voted out.

Support independent journalism

That means the NDP increased the number of equivalent full-time government jobs by 445 while they were in power, or about 111 jobs per year.

Here’s how the total numbers look for each year.

Here’s a look at the increases and decreases over the NDP term.

Even though the loss of jobs in the final year was enough to wipe out the gains in the first year, the gains in the other two years still meant a net gain in total ministry jobs.

That’s not all.

The NDP had actually planned to increase jobs by far more in their second year than they did. They had hoped to go from 26,523 in 2015–2016 to 29,618 the next year, a jump of 11.67%. That would’ve been the highest increase of their term.

But instead, their second year came in at 2,824 fewer full-time equivalent jobs they had planned.

Here are how the jobs looked when broken down by ministry.

Aboriginal Relations229230
Advanced Education571575
Agriculture & Food1,6900
Agriculture & Forestry01,701
Children’s Services02,768
Community & Social Services03,163
Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women0568
Culture & Tourism6130
Economic Development & Trade3350
Economic Development, Trade & Tourism0373
Environment & Parks2,1342,213
Human Services6,1870
Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour6090
Justice & Solicitor General6,8656,987
Labour & Immigration0816
Municipal Affairs566590
Service Alberta1,3772,238
Status of Women30
Treasury Board & Finance777548

Okay, so this can be a bit confusing. The data comes from the 2015–2016 and the 2019–2020 budget documents. The PCs, NDP, and UCP didn’t use the same names for the same ministries, and they moved portfolios around between ministries.

For example, what was Indigenous Relations under the NDP and UCP was Aboriginal Relations under the PCs. Also, you’ll notice that tourism moved from Culture and Tourism to Economic Development, Trade & Tourism. Also, the Seniors ministry became the Seniors and Housing ministry.

Either way, we can see that the number of people working within government ministries also increased.

But wait, there’s more.

The provincial government also hires workers to fill positions in schools, universities, colleges, and health, also referred to as SUCH, as well as public agencies and other arm’s length entities.

Here are all the government workers in the SUCH sector for the year before the NDP took office and their final year in office.

Agriculture Financial Services647630
Alberta Energy Regulator1,2321,240
Alberta Enterprise66
Alberta Health Services76,10180,570
Alberta Innovates652712
Alberta Insurance Council2524
Alberta Investment Management372427
Alberta Local Authorities Pension Plan68
Alberta Pensions Services282297
Alberta Securities Commission191204
Alberta Utilities Commission150143
Certificated Edcuation Staff34,37537,197
Energy Efficiency Alberta034
Health Quality Council of Alberta3135
Legislative Assembly714746
Natural Resources Conservation Board4747
Non-certificated Edcuation Staff24,21826,452
Post-secondary institutions33,51733,588
Safety Codes Council060
Transportation Safety Board1312
Travel Alberta8480
Victims of Crime Fund3754

The SUCH sector grew from 172,700 when the NDP took power to 182,566 over the next 4 years, an increase of nearly 10,000.

And that seems like a lot, but keep in mind that bulk of those are in 3 areas. Here are the jobs listed by total increases.

Alberta Health Services4,469
Certificated Edcuation Staff2,822
Non-certificated Edcuation Staff2,234
Post-secondary institutions71
Alberta Innovates60
Safety Codes Council60
Alberta Investment Management55
Energy Efficiency Alberta34
Legislative Assembly32
Victims of Crime Fund17
Alberta Pensions Services15
Alberta Securities Commission13
Alberta Energy Regulator8
Health Quality Council of Alberta4
Alberta Local Authorities Pension Plan2
Alberta Enterprise0
Natural Resources Conservation Board0
Alberta Insurance Council-1
Transportation Safety Board-1
Travel Alberta-4
Alberta Utilities Commission-7
Agriculture Financial Services-17

During the NDP administration, the equivalent of over 9,500 full-time jobs were created in healthcare and K–12 education. That’s 96.5% of the jobs hired in the SUCH sector.

The other 19 entities accounted for only 341 new jobs, the other 3.5%.

And those numbers for AHS and schools aren’t all admin either. In fact, AHS management dropped from 3,382.74 FTEs in 2014–2015 to 3,113.27 in 2018–2019, a decrease of roughly 270.

Medical staff, on the other hand, increased by 5,332.5 during those 4 years, according to AHS annual report data. There were 1,013 more registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, and grad nurses; 1,021 more LPNs; 1,418 more other health technical and professionals; and 1,904 more unregulated health service providers.

So, while it’s true that public sector jobs increased by 10,321 while the NDP were in power, over 90% of them were medical personnel and K–12 staff.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

14 replies on “Did the Alberta NDP really increase public sector jobs?”

Thanks Kim! I knew there was no way the NDP hired the huge amount of public servants that I’ve read conservative commentators accused them of hiring. I’ve read anywhere from 40K to 80K, and clearly, the true number is much lower. Thank you for investigating this issue.

Good analysis. However, as a Manitoban who worked in and around the health care system for over 35 years, some things cannot be measured. What the “Conservatives” do, is keep jobs “open” on paper, but never fill them or eliminate jobs when they become vacant. In either scenario, the jobs need to be filled, but aren’t. In some cases, the work is contracted to outside entities who perform the work, but the people doing the work are not government “employees”. Often these contracted jobs actually cost more than what the cost of hiring an employee would be. The NDP often gets caught in the trap of re-hiring for those positions which shows as an increase in government employees. I suspect the health sector was a victim of the “elimination by vacancy” over the years.
That is not to say that the NDP is more honest or better than other political parties in handing out or calling in political favours, only different in how they do it.

As a UCP supporter I appreciate your article and believe your numbers. I don’t want to blame the NDP for something they aren’t responsible for so thank you! I remain puzzled by the contrast between your numbers and those of the Fraser Institute study which I don’t believe you attempted to explain. I assume the difference comes from the fact Fraser was looking at all levels of government, federal, provincial, and municipal. Do you concur?

You’re welcome. I appreciate your kind words, Clayton. My intent is to present the data so everyone can see it.

I don’t think I’m familiar with the Fraser Institute study. Do you have a link handy?

Thanks for responding so quickly. I assumed your article was in response to the Fraser Institute study which estimated an increase in public sector employment of over 70,000 during the NDP’s tenure. I haven’t read the study myself only news reports and the bottom line number. If I may ask what prompted you to write the article?

Honestly, it’s been almost a year since I wrote the article, so I don’t recall what specifically prompted me to write it. I do often see people complain that the NDP only created public sector jobs, so it might have been one of these comments that prompted me to write it.

I took a look at the Fraser Institute, and their article looks at a different dataset than mine did. Their data falls between July 2014 and May 2018. Mine fell between April 2015 and March 2019. They seemed to also use the Statistics Canada data, while I specifically looked at the data from the Government of Alberta annual reports, which shows only public sector workers that are directly funded by provincial revenue.

Perfect. Thanks! I have a few friends that quote the 70,000 number. I will put it in the appropriate context for them. I would have loved to blame the NDP for the increase but that clearly won’t fly. It’s work like yours that starts to bring people together using accurate and carefully referenced information.

Our society won’t get better until people from all walks of life can come together. Thanks for stopping by, Clayton. Hopefully, you’ll be back again. 🙂

Hey Kim,
I think I posted a comment asking about the number of employees being expanded massively while I was working for AHS and we’d had a hiring freeze (and pay freeze!) for years already, by that point.
I kept reading comments about how the NDP hugely increased the number of public employees, and I knew the quoted numbers weren’t realistic based on the hiring freeze, so I asked if you could look into it since you’re so good with data on this kind of thing.
Thanks again, Kim.

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: