Think tank study confirms cost of significant cuts to CFIA staff, budget

One of the country’s most respected research bodies has confirmed the Agriculture Union’s contention that significant reductions in the budget and staffing of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are taking a major toll on the country’s food safety and security.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a new report, entitled At What Cost: The Impacts of Rushing to Balance the Budget, on November 12. The CCPA concluded that overall cuts in federal employment appear to have been implemented much more rapidly than predicted and affect more people.

The CCPA zeroed in on food inspection services as one of the report’s case studies.

Using the government’s own stated targets, the CCPA found that by 2016 the CFIA will have lost 20 per cent of its workforce and will have had its budget cut by a quarter.  This reduction in full-time equivalent staff placed it among the top five federal departments or agencies for highest proportionate job loss.

And while the Conservative government has repeatedly insisted that cuts would not impact front-line services, the independent ‘think tank’ pointed out that CFIA’s Food Safety program, which handles inspections of food packaging and production facilities as well as food product regulation, has itself faced budget cuts of 22 per cent and staff cuts of 13.5 per cent.

Overall, the CCPA study found that federal public service has already shrunk by 36,900 people. By 2016, the total number of people working for the federal government will have fallen by eight per cent – approaching twice the 4.8 per cent figure reported in the Harper government’s 2012 Budget.

The CCPA noted that the Conservatives did not announce large cuts all at once but rather stacked them over successive budgets, resulting in a cascading growth in job loss. It also noted that the reductions will continue for two years after the budget is balanced, refuting the government’s oft-stated ‘deficit fighting’ rationale.