UCP’s new budget will see 7,600 more public sector workers

That’s an increase of 3.7% over the last year.

Yesterday, the UCP government released their last provincial budget before Albertans head to the polls this spring.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll pull out some data from the budget for several articles. But for my first “breaking” story, I wanted to do something that most mainstream outlets probably won’t be.

This news story will focus on how this budget will affect public sector jobs.

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Before I do that, I just wanted to give a high-level snapshot of this year’s budget.

Revenue$62.6 billion$70.7 billion$8.1 billion
Expenses$60.3 billion$66.8 billion$6.5 billion
Contingency$1.8 billion$1.5 billion-$0.3 billion
Deficit/surplus$0.5 billion$2.4 billion

Numbers may not add up because of rounding

Resource revenue alone increases by over $2 billion in this year’s budget over last year’s initial budget. That’s 58.1% of the increase in revenue. As well, federal transfers (~$0.5 billion), personal income tax (~$0.7 billion), and corporate income tax (~$2 billion) are up.

Like I said, I’ll do a breakdown on that in a future article.

Let’s get to jobs.

First let’s start with the Government of Alberta jobs. In Schedule 22 of the 2022–2023 budget, the government said that there were planning on having 25,981 workers in the various government ministries and departments.

In this year’s budget, the number jumps up to 27,572. That means that this government plans to hire 1,591 workers over the next year.

The largest increase will come in Public Safety and Emergency Services, which will hire near 700 workers, an increase of 18.22%. Only 4 departments/ministries will see a decrease in workers, the largest of which will be in Transportation and Economic Corridors, who will be cutting 33 workers from their payroll, or 4.26%.

Here’s how workers in the various departments will fare over the next fiscal year:

2022–23 budget2023–24 budgetChange
Advanced Education28129110
Affordability and Utilities758611
Agriculture and Irrigation6226253
Children’s Services3,015302611
Environment and Protected Areas1,2211219-2
Executive Council15016212
Forestry, Parks and Tourism1,5621666104
Indigenous Relations1751761
Jobs, Economy and Northern Development882858-24
Mental Health and Addiction718716
Municipal Affairs442441-1
Public Safety and Emergency Services3,8324530698
Seniors, Community and Social Services3,009305041
Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction9591077118
Skilled Trades and Professions2212265
Technology and Innovation1,19712014
Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism20824234
Transportation and Economic Corridors775742-33
Treasury Board and Finance13861488102

Anyone else find it slightly ironic that the ministry of jobs is cutting their workforce? No? Just me?

Now, that we have had 4 budgets from the UCP government, I thought I’d take a look at the change in the number of workers projected in the NDP’s last budget and the number of workers projected in the UCP’s budget. Oh, actually, I guess this is their fifth one, actually.

Anyhow, in their last budget, the NDP had planned to employ 27,808 workers in the government’s ministries and departments. After 5 budgets, the UCP plan to employ 27,572 workers in their departments and ministries. That means over a 5-year period, the UCP government will have laid off 236 workers.

“Jobs. Economy. Pipelines.”

I can’t compare the individual departments and ministries between the two governments, as the UCP has renamed several ministries and introduced new departments into their budget, without any indication of how they compare to past budgets, other than last year’s.

Now let’s look at workers in K–12, postsecondary, and Alberta Health Services, the so-called SUCH (schools, universities, colleges, and health) workers.

First, here’s how things look compared to last year.

2022-232023–24Change% change
K–12, Certificated37,03837,6886501.75%
K–12, Non-certificated26,02627,4011,3755.28%

According to the UCP’s new budget, they plan on hiring new workers in postsecondary, healthcare, and K–12 education. But there’s some context we should be aware of.

At the end of 2022, Alberta’s population was 4,601,314. The year before, it was 4,466,124, which means our population has increased by 135,190, or 3.03%.

Even though the government plans to hire over 260 post-secondary workers, it won’t be enough to cover population growth.

As far as, K–12 schools go, they plan on hiring 650 certificated workers, which I assume means teachers and administrators. There are 63 public, separate, and Francophone school districts/authorities in this province. That’s barely 10 new teachers per school district, let alone per school.

For example, the Lethbridge school division has 24 schools, so that would mean that not even half of Lethbridge schools would be able to increase their teaching staff levels by even just 1 teacher.

On the other hand, the government plans to hire 1,375 non-certificated workers, which I assume are support workers of various kinds. That increase of 5.28% would cover population growth, and then some.

Same goes for healthcare. The UCP plan to hire 3,570 AHS workers. This would potentially include frontline care providers (like nurses and doctors), technical workers, support workers, and administration. And at an increase of 4.23%, that should cover population growth.

Now let’s compare them to the NDP’s last budget.

2018-192023–24Change% change
K–12, Certificated36,88337,6888052.18%
K–12, Non-certificated26,46327,4019383.54%

In the fourth quarter of 2018, Alberta’s population sat at 4,317,665. Four years later, in the fourth quarter of 2022, our population sat at 4,601,314. That’s an increase of 283,649, or 6.57%.

On average, Alberta has seen an annual increase in population of 1.64% between fourth quarters. If we see a similar increase this year, then our population will be 4,676,891 by the end of the year, an increase of 8.32% since the fourth quarter of 2018.

In other words, only AHS will have increased workers above population growth, but just barely. Even though K-12 workers will have increased, that increase won’t be enough to keep up with population demand.

And Alberta’s colleges, universities, and trade schools will still be over 1,000 workers short where they were before the UCP were elected, even with the increase of 263 workers this year over last year.

Finally, here is the change in employees for various agencies and arms length organizations.

Agriculture Financial Services Corporation5615709
Alberta Energy Regulator1,0481,0480
Alberta Enterprise Corporation11121
Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation15150
Alberta Innovates Corporation5895967
Alberta Insurance Council24240
Alberta Investment Management Corporation62169776
Alberta Pensions Services Corporation33334613
Alberta Securities Commission23225321
Alberta Utilities Commission1321320
Canadian Energy Centre10100
Health Quality Council of Alberta36459
Invest Alberta Corporation50500
Legislative Assembly74876416
Natural Resources Conservation Board34340
Safety Codes Council60600
Travel Alberta Corporation80800
Victims of Crime and Public Safety Fund54540

Not a single one of these entities will see a loss of workers between now and the next provincial election. Overall, these groups will see a combined increase of 152 new workers. The largest increase will go to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, who will employ 76 more people over the next year.

Here are the same entities but with the change in workers since 2018–2019:

Agriculture Financial Services Corporation630570-60
Alberta Energy Regulator1,2401,048-192
Alberta Enterprise Corporation6126
Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation1515
Alberta Innovates Corporation712596-116
Alberta Insurance Council24240
Alberta Investment Management Corporation427697270
Alberta Pensions Services Corporation29734649
Alberta Securities Commission20525348
Alberta Utilities Commission143132-11
Canadian Energy Centre1010
Health Quality Council of Alberta354510
Invest Alberta Corporation5050
Legislative Assembly74676418
Natural Resources Conservation Board4734-13
Safety Codes Council60600
Travel Alberta Corporation80800
Victims of Crime and Public Safety Fund54540

Three of the agencies and organizations—Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation, the energy war room, and Invest Alberta Corporation—didn’t exist under the NDP.

Four of the agencies—Alberta Insurance Council, Safety Codes Council, Travel Alberta Corporation, and Victims of Crime and Public Safety Fund—saw no increases under the UCP.

Five of them reduced how many workers they employed, the largest of which was the Alberta Energy Regulator, who laid off nearly 200 workers, compared to the NDP’s final year in government.

All the remaining agencies and organizations saw increases in staffing levels. The largest increase in the number of workers was with the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, which hired an additional 270 workers.

Here’s a summary of the three areas of public sector employees: ministries and departments, SUCH, and agencies.

First, year-over-year changes.

2022–232023–24Change% change

And here are the changes for the last 5 years.

2018–192023–24Change% change

What we see here is that there’s only a difference of 165 between these two tables. So, while it might seem impressive that the UCP government plans to hire over 7,600 public sector workers over the next year, they hired only 165 workers over the previous 4 years.

It’s almost like there’s an election coming soon.

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By Kim Siever

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

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