Tom Mulcair sprinkled questions among the Conservative front benches during Question Period’s opening round. The NDP Leader started with First Nations education, but quickly pivoted to a jab at Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s understanding of his own public servants.
Clement claims public servants average 18 sick days a year, and occasionally frets about how that statistic is out of line with corresponding data in the private sector. Federal unions claim the number is closer to 11.5. Today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that, in his office’s view, the public servants’ number is correct—and Clement’s calculation combines both paid and unpaid sick days. Not surprisingly, Mulcair interpreted Jean-Denis Fréchette’s report as confirmation of the unions’ claims. For his part, Clement claimed his accounting had always included paid and unpaid days. Neither gave any ground.
Today’s exchange provided just the first salvo of what could be a protracted fight in the Commons over labour relations. More than two dozen bargaining units are negotiating new contracts with their federal employers in 2014. Drama approaches.