If we are going to practice “who gets what federalism”, why not also look at the explicit role of the federal government in terms of its employment across the provinces? Figure 1 shows the distribution of federal general government employment by province and territory. Figure 2 shows the distribution of federal government wages and salaries paid to its employees by province and territory. Figure 3 calculates the value of federal government wages and salaries per federal employee on a provincial-territorial basis. Finally, the distribution of federal government business enterprise employment is presented in Figure 4. The data is from Statistics Canada, Table 183-0002.
So, how is Ontario doing? In 2011, Ontario accounted for 39 percent of Canada’s population and 37 percent of its GDP. However, 43 percent of federal general government employees were to be found in Ontario and they accounted for 45 percent of the wage and salary bill. Moreover, Ontario also accounted for 42 percent of federal business enterprise employment. As well, if one calculates federal wages and salaries per employee, outside of the territories, Ontario federal government workers were the best paid in the country. The average wage and salary bill per federal employee in Ontario was $76,339 with the next highest being BC at $73,484. On the other hand, Quebec accounts for 23 percent of the population and 20 percent of the GDP and accounted for 21 percent of federal general employment, 19 percent of federal business enterprise employment and 20 percent of federal wages and salaries. Its federal employees on average only earned $69,162. Alberta, with 11 percent of the population and 17 percent of Canada’s GDP accounts for only 7 percent of federal general government employment and wages and salaries as well as only 3 percent of federal business enterprise employment. Its federal employees only earned an average wage and salary of $68,661.
So despite being hard done by in other ways, how does Ontario manage to account for such a large share of federal government employment? Is it a fiscal gap or imbalance brought about by the nefarious structure of a federal system tilted in Ontario’s favour? Is it something the other provinces should be concerned about? More likely, it is what happens when the federal capital happens to be in your province. Ottawa accounts for a very large chunk of federal employment and Ottawa is in Ontario. Along with federal employment, one can imagine that as a result of this geographic reality, the federal share of procurement of supplies and services in Ontario is also larger than its population share. Then there is the spending by federal crown corporations and enterprises. This may not be enough to offset the fiscal gap but one imagines that Ontario business must do very well with such a large federal presence in their province.