Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice addresses a group at the Festival Hall in Red Deer during a campaign stop Wednesday afternoon.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice addresses a group at the Festival Hall in Red Deer during a campaign stop Wednesday afternoon.

Prentice vows to slash costs, red tape

Government managers face a three-year pay freeze and about 80 agencies, boards and commissions will be eliminated to cut costs, said Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice in a Red Deer campaign stop.

Government managers face a three-year pay freeze and about 80 agencies, boards and commissions will be eliminated to cut costs, said Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice in a Red Deer campaign stop.

Prentice said existing public sector wage increases will be honoured but he made it clear there won’t be any money in the pot when they come up for renegotiation in the next few years if his government is returned to power.

Managers will feel the brunt immediately. Their pay increases will no longer be tied to raises negotiated by public sector unions and a hiring freeze will be put in place.

“We will not do that. This will be a change in practice,” said Prentice before about 100 supporters at Red Deer’s Festival Hall.

Sticking to his message of the need to eliminate government red tape, waste and duplication, Prentice pledged to cut a quarter of the province’s 320 agencies, boards and commissions by the end of March 2016.

“A province of our size does not need this many boards and agencies.

“Every dollar that is misspent reinforces in our minds that we have work to do; that we must do a better job of managing government. We have to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated.”

When it comes time to renegotiate expiring union contracts, Prentice promised the government will approach negotiations with unions representing 200,000 workers in a “respectful way” but said there will be no public sector wage increases until the budget is balanced.

“Today, I can’t negotiate those positions but clearly we have to hold the line on expenditures,” he said.

“The point is we have to get the government of Alberta back to balance,” he said. “To do that we have to freeze management salaries and we’re going to have to take a firm position at the bargaining table that we start from zero increases.”

Per capita public spending must be brought in line with the rest of Canada, he said.

Alberta spends $1,300 more per resident on its public sector than the national average.

His government wants to cut $8.6 billion over the next three years to bring spending under control.

As well, in each government department, efficiency teams will be created. They will include public, industry and citizen group representation led by front-line staffers, to find ways to trim costs in government departments.

Recommendations will go directly to cabinet.

“We will not allow the recommendations of these efficiency teams to be filtered or watered down,” he said.

The province has already brought in five per cent wage rollbacks for the premier, ministers and MLAs.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com