This post was inspired by the terrific NL politics blog Labradore. A few months ago, he posted a chart (reproduced below) showing provincial public sector employment as a share of total employment.
So here is what I found. The following chart shows public sector employment (minus federal general government and federal government business enterprises) as a percentage of population. Note that the time period is reduced because the data I used only goes back to 2001.
Another reasonable measure is public sector wages as a share of GDP. Here is the chart.
Together, these charts tell a different story than the one told by Labradore. The public sector has certainly grown over the last decade, but we have also become wealthier as a province so we can afford to spend more on public services. If you compare us to the other five provinces with populations under 3 million we seem to be about average.
On the whole, I think it is reasonable to argue that the public sector may be growing too quickly, but it certainly isn't scandalously large by national standards.
Sources: Statistics Canada, CANSIM tables 183-0002, 384-002, 051-0001.