During the 2015 election, the Liberals played up the discontent lingering amongst employees of the federal government.
Many government workers seemingly came out against the Harper government in 2015 and accused the former Prime Minister of being difficult to work with and initiating harmful cuts to the public sector.
A research article by a PhD candidate from Concordia University, however, finds that the dissatisfaction towards the Conservative government was largely exaggerated for political effect.
The report’s author Jocelyn McGrandle based her results on the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) and found that job satisfaction was high under the Harper government.
“This study measures job satisfaction of Canadian public servants in 2014 and concludes that job satisfaction remained fairly high across the board, even under Stephen Harper,” the report reads.
This runs completely counter to the partisan rhetoric from both the Trudeau Liberals and public sector unions who insisted there was a “toxic environment” in the civil service under the leadership of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper
In other words, the Liberals manufactured non-existent discontent for their own electoral benefit.
The attacks went so far as running a campaign against the departing government. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) created a digital campaign against the Harper government called “Vote to Stop the Cuts” to battle the supposed damage the federal government had done to the public sector.
In response to this perceived discontent, Trudeau took advantage of the situation by promising to look after the public service better than his predecessor.
“Where he sees an adversary, I see a partner. I believe that in order to have a public service that is valued by Canadians, and a source of pride for its members, it must be valued by its government,” he said in an open letter.
However, the Trudeau Liberals have also sparked the ire of the Public Service Alliance after failing to deliver on their promises. In 2018, the government proposed a two-year wage freeze for federal workers after six months of bargaining,
“It’s outrageous that our members have been waiting three years to get paid correctly under Phoenix—and the Trudeau government won’t even come to the table with a serious offer. After what our members have been through, and what they continue to go through, the Government’s offer can only be described as an insult – it’s shameful,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC’s National President.
By measuring job satisfaction, the Concordia University researcher McGrandle was able to prove that the experience of public sector employees from the Harper era did not match the popular narrative spun by the Liberals.
Paul Wilson, an associate professor from Carleton University, verifies McGrandle’s findings.
“[Harper] wanted advice from the public service, he carefully considered the advice from the public service, and then he made a decision on things — and sometimes he agreed, and sometimes he didn’t.”