Harris Centre releases report on federal presence

Changing landscape

The federal government’s presence in Newfoundland and Labrador has declined significantly since the early 1990s, and the Harris Centre has detailed the specifics of federal retrenchment.

Memorial’s Leslie Harris Centre of Regional and Policy Development (Harris Centre) released a report Nov. 22 chronicling the federal government’s presence in Newfoundland and Labrador between 1981 and 2004. It examines changes in federal government employment, wages and salaries, spending, and military personnel over the past 25 years.

Data analysis and personal interviews provide an overview of how federal government involvement in the province has changed over time as well as context and insight into the changes that have occurred and the province’s reaction to those changes.

Federal employment in the province has decreased by almost 25 per cent since 1981 compared with a nationwide decrease of only five per cent. Practically all that 25 per cent decline occurred between 1993 and 1999. Since 1993 the number of people employed by the federal government in Newfoundland and Labrador has fallen substantially, from approximately 10,250 in 1993 to 6,970 in 2004. That is a 32 per cent decline.

At a time when federal employment across Canada was increasing, (1997-2004) the province lost 11 per cent of its federal positions.

In terms of senior staff with decision-making authority and representation of provincial interests, Newfoundland and Labrador is significantly underrepresented in proportion to its population and fares far worse than all the other provinces. Only about 0.8 per cent of the total number of executive positions in Canada are located in the province which is less than one-half of its share of the nation’s population.

Military presence in the province is slightly less than the province’s portion of the population however the majority (64 per cent) of personnel are reservists and do not constitute full-time positions.

Federal expenditures on wages and salaries have been increasing since 1981 but average earnings per employee in Newfoundland and Labrador remains several thousand dollars below the national average.

Federal expenditures on goods and services, while they have increased since 1981, have not kept pace with nationwide increases in expenditures. That has caused the province’s share of federal expenditures to decline.

This report was prepared by Alison Coffin under the direction of Dr. James Feehan, Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts, Memorial University, and was made possible with the help of a contribution from the Crosbie Group of Companies.

Dr. Robert Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre, highlighted that “this is just one of many reports that the Harris Centre will release on issues of public importance in regional policy and development. Memorial University’s faculty, staff and students represent an enormous resource for high quality, independent research and analysis.” Dr. Greenwood added that “this is the first time the private sector has partnered with the Harris Centre in supporting research at Memorial University. The Crosbie Group of Companies saw this as an important public policy issue for the province and agreed that the integrity and independence of Memorial University researchers was critical to shed light on this issue in an expert and objective manner.”

A second report is currently being prepared. It will expand on the findings of this document and include a detailed breakdown of federal employment by department and location and examine the federal procurement process.

Copies of the report can be found on the Harris Centre’s Web site at www.mun.ca/harriscentre/reports.php. The Harris Centre has a mandate to facilitate and coordinate the university’s activities related to regional policy and development.