Sixty scientists with Environment Canada received notice that their jobs are “surplus” as of Jan. 11, confirming Minister Peter Kent’s announcement last August that 776 department positions would meet the chopping block due to the Conservative government’s belt-tightening.
Though the department is under “strict orders” not to reveal what work the surplus scientists are doing, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) – the union representing them – said the 60 employees include “senior engineers, environmental compliance officers, biologists, climatologists and others” responsible for reporting on pollution, monitoring water quality and climate research.
“While the government pays lip service to protecting the interests of all Canadians, it continues to target science-based departments, the front line when it comes to protecting our environment and the health of our citizens,” said PIPSC president Gary Corbett in a statement. “It calls it streamlining the public service. But when you look at its priorities and its actions, this government is clearly relegating the protection of Canadians to the backburner in favour of the bottom line.”
Corbett said budget reductions over the last year have left many positions within Environment Canada vacant, programs expired and others, such as the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda, with dramatically reduced funding.
“Canadians have every right to ask their government how less regulatory oversight of key industries, reduced environmental protection and fewer independent public service professionals tasked with ensuring their health and well-being somehow adds up to a better Canada,” concluded Corbett.
The 60 surplus notices come as federal departments are bracing for additional cuts of five to 10 per cent, as part of the strategic and operating spending review process. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty admitted recently that some departments may face cuts greater than 10 per cent.
PIPSC represents 60,000 professionals and scientists in Canada’s public sector. Of the 776 originally put on alert regarding job security, 229 are PIPSC members.
Until this batch of notices, 16 scientists had been declared surplus while 150 term positions and 400 casual jobs had been eliminated, mostly through reducing funding for limited-duration programs.
The announcement followed 400 Fisheries and Oceans employees receiving letters saying their jobs would be “affected” by reductions in the department, according to PIPSC.