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Environment Canada to cut over 700 jobs

(Xinhua)

16:31, August 05, 2011

By Mark Bourrie

OTTAWA, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Environment Canada is among the first government departments to face big job cuts as it struggles to make ends meet.

A total of 776 employees have been notified that they will be affected by the job cuts, though not all of them will ultimately end up leaving the department, Gary Corbett, president of the labor union, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), told the CTV television network in an interview Thursday. The union represents about half of the workers who will lose their jobs.

Environment Canada, a national agency that tracks climate change, protects endangered animals and fights pollution, expects 300 employees to be "surplused," the union leader added.

Corbett is worried about the impact of the job losses.

"These type of announcements cause a lot of havoc in the department and people are certainly wondering what is going to happen now," he said.

Government officials briefed senior union representatives Wednesday on the pending cuts. The union was told Environment Canada will now concentrate on core services like contamination cleanup and enforcement of pollution rules.

Meteorologists, chemists, biologists and other scientists are expected to either be fired or transferred to other positions within the federal public service.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who is in charge of reducing the cost of government services, said Thursday that this is a decision by Environment Canada. He promised the government would try to find new jobs for the fired.

"When there are staff reductions, first of all those decisions are not taken lightly, because we are dealing with human beings and families and we know that this is sometimes a challenging time when these decisions are made for those individuals," Clement said at a news conference in Ottawa.

"But we as a government go out of our way to work with each individual to try to see whether through attrition, whether there's another position available in the government of Canada or at least work with them for retraining. I think that's the right thing to do," he said.

Clement said about 11,000 people -- roughly 5 percent of the federal workforce -- quit or retire from the public service every year and he hoped some of the Environment Canada workers could fill these vacancies. The government cannot give a guarantee but would do its best, he said.

But union leaders didn't expect many of the fired workers to find new jobs in the government.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said in a statement that her Party is concerned that this latest round of job cuts could affect Environment Canada's ability to deal with complex and changing environmental issues, May said.

Besides, they are "worried that cuts are also impacting other departments," she said.

Her words were echoed by the Liberal Party.

They called the cuts "reckless," saying they "prove that protecting our fragile environment while building a vibrant green economy is not a Conservative priority."

"These massive cuts are deeply alarming and will result in reduced ability to evaluate scientific issues, such as air quality, climate change and water quality, and could potentially lead to less-informed decision-making," Liberal environment critic Kirsty Duncan said in a statement.

Further job losses are possible when the government completes its "strategic review" of operations later this year.

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