The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) believes the Harper government’s proposed cuts to the public service sector are ‘nuts,’ and has launched a Facebook campaign to garner public support for its cause.
PSAC is the country’s largest public-sector union, representing approximately 180,000 public service employees in various jobs, including food inspection and environmental protection. The new campaign calls out what PSAC claims is the “absurdity” of Canadians being forced to choose between strong public services and reducing the federal deficit.
A two-minute video on a dedicated Facebook page shows a woman applying for parental benefits at a Service Canada branch, only to see a giant squirrel ransack the office, sweeping items onto the floor.
The spot, created by Toronto agency Evidently, concludes with the campaign slogan, “An absurd choice is no choice” and urges Canadians to visit ThirdChoice.ca (the site, which launched Friday, and had 279 “likes” as of Friday afternoon). PSAC is also calling on the public to submit photos that represent the number three, representing a third choice that reconciles the government’s need for budget cuts with the need to provide sufficient funding for government departments and agencies.
The social media campaign comes amid a spending review by the Conservative government that is aimed at trimming billions of dollars from the federal budget over the next several years. Almost 70 government agencies and departments have been asked to submit scenarios that take into account a five to 10% reduction in their annual budget.
“We really want to see a public debate about the need for transparency and priorities as a nation,” said Patty Ducharme, national executive vice-president at PSAC.
“Does it make any difference to me if the federal deficit is paid off in six years as opposed to four?” she said. “Quite frankly, I’m okay with us having a deficit if we’re investing in our communities, investing in clean water, making sure we have meat inspectors, ensuring that workplaces have health and safety inspectors.”
The oversized squirrel, said Ducharme, is the embodiment of the absurdity of the choice. Ducharme said that she had heard that Service Canada was already scrambling to block access to the Facebook page within hours of its appearance, and castigated the government body for getting its priorities wrong when it should be ensuring it is devoting sufficient resources to tasks like processing Canada Pension claims and passport applications.
“We’re trying to open up the debate, they’re trying to shut it down,” she said. “What is this government’s priority?”
This is the second campaign this week to address potential cuts to government bodies. On Wednesday, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting debuted a campaign warning of the implication of possible cuts to the CBC budget.