Liberal MP and President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos said Canadians are capable of footing the cost of salary increases for public sector employees. 

Duclos made the comments during the House of Commons Committee on Government Operations and Estimates meeting Wednesday night. At the time, the committee was discussing the federal government settlement with Canada’s largest federal public service union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

Earlier this year, the Liberals gave public sector employees a retroactive 2.8% raise for 2018, an additional 2.2% increase for 2019 and a 1.35% raise for this year.

In July, the government projected a $343.2 billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal year. The added debt will bring the net federal debt to $1.2 trillion by next March.

“Why would you give such a generous increase when the country is in such a raging economic downfall and running such massive deficits?” asked Conservative MP Kelly McCauley during the committee meeting.

“First, respect for the work of public servants. Second, respect for the capacity of taxpayers to pay for the important work of the public service,” said Duclos. 

“A trillion-dollar debt and you say they’ve got the capacity for more spending? Wow, that’s very generous of you on the taxpayers’ behalf,” replied McCauley. 

In October 2019, it was revealed that the allegedly non-partisan PSAC campaigned for a Liberal re-election with the hopes of a “fair collective agreement” for federal public service workers. 

“We liked the fact that they did promise us that they would get back to us after the election regarding a fair collective agreement for our 140,000 federal public sector members,”  said national president of the union Chris Aylward.

The president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) Debi Daviau had also indicated that the union expects the government to “reciprocate” their support.