Canada to slash environment jobs, critics fume

Thu Aug 4, 2011 3:43pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's environment ministry will cut or reassign around 10 percent of its workers, unions said Thursday, prompting fears that services like weather forecasting and environmental protection will suffer.

Officials said the move was designed to help eliminate the budget deficit. Critics said it underscored what they portray as the right-leaning Conservative government's contempt for the environment.

The cuts are part of a government plan to find C$4 billion ($4.1 billion) a year in savings by 2014-15 from an envelope of C$80 billion, or about 5 percent.

The two unions representing workers at Environment Canada said they had been told this week that 300 employees would lose their jobs while a further 450 or so would be reassigned.

Those affected include engineers, meteorologists, scientists, chemists and biologists.

William Pynn, head of the Union of Environment Workers, said meteorology, water monitoring and enforcement of regulations would suffer.

"The cuts are so massive that the support mechanism for the research that Environment Canada does ... is certainly going to be challenged," he told Reuters.

Stephen Vandervalk, president of Grain Growers of Canada, the country's largest farmer group, said farmers relied on Environment Canada for warnings about crop-damaging hailstorms and other severe weather.   Continued...