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The Pallister government is turning once again to an outside consulting firm for advice — this time to assess job classifications and staff-to-management ratios at several Crown corporations.
Finance Minister Scott Fielding said the Manitoba government is not assuming the outside review will lead to further personnel cuts; rather it is looking for information on which to base future decisions.
"There potentially could be savings, but let the work happen, and then we can make informed decisions on that," he said Thursday.
During its last mandate, the Progressive Conservative government ordered a 15 per cent cut in senior management positions at Manitoba Public Insurance, Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. It also undertook to reduce senior management levels within the provincial civil service.
Fielding said the government would follow up with the corporations to ensure senior management numbers haven't been creeping back up.
He said the consultant — yet to be hired — will compare management ratios at the three big Crowns, as well as at Efficiency Manitoba and Manitoba Centennial Centre, to ensure they fall in line with accepted norms.
"The best practice is generally... one-to-five or one-to-seven (supervisors to employees)," Fielding said. "That's a ballpark."
(A government spokeswoman later said the supervisory positions being examined would include those filled by members of a union.)
Fielding said the government has already carried out this analysis within the civil service.
"Taxpayers would expect us to make sure that there's an appropriate level of managers (to employees)," he said.
Since taking office in 2016, the Tory government has spent tens of millions of dollars on consultants, who've provided advice on everything from health-care reform and school construction to the harness racing industry.
"Taxpayers would expect us to make sure that there's an appropriate level of managers (to employees)." — Manitoba Finance Minister Scott Fielding
The same consultant who will study job classifications and staff-supervisor ratios will also conduct the previously announced review of executive salaries at the Crown corporations.
Fielding could not immediately say when the government expects the work to be completed. Neither did he provide a ballpark cost figure.
The Crown corporations were informed of the government's intentions Thursday.
Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton wrote a joint letter to the board chairs of the three major corporations to inform them of the decision to hire the consultant, and to say new mandate letters will be provided in the coming weeks.
A separate directive said the corporations are expected to achieve "a reduction in overall management by at least 15 per cent."
Fielding emphasized this did not represent a further 15 per cent cut over and above the previous senior management reduction directive.
The Free Press reached out to Hydro, MLL and MPI for comment Thursday.
Only Hydro responded before deadline, with a brief statement, which read: "Manitoba Hydro has already achieved the staffing targets outlined in the mandate letter. We are in compliance with all requirements under the directive to Crown corporations, and will continue to be."
Last summer, Manitoba Hydro revealed it had hired an independent firm to assist it in developing a 20-year corporate strategic plan. It's unclear what effect the consultant about to be hired by the province will have on that work.
NDP MLA Adrien Sala said he is concerned about further staff cuts at Hydro, which has reduced its workforce by more than 800 positions in recent years.
Sala noted Hydro has expressed the concern more staff cuts could result in safety risks to employees and the general public.
"Here we have the premier once again using his friends in the consultancy business to help our Crown corporations determine what they need to do to run their businesses," the St. James MLA said.
Sala said any review should be done in partnership with the Crown corporations.
Fielding also said future increases in executive salaries at Crown corporations will have to conform to the government's overall public-sector four-year guideline of zero, zero, 0.75 per cent, and one per cent.
The guideline will kick in after a salary-escalating clause in an existing executive contract ends, the minister said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.