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Ottawa cuts hundreds of jobs from Environment Canada

Environment Canada is cutting the jobs of hundreds of meteorologists, scientists, chemists and engineers, according to a news report in The Star. The report said it was part of the Conservative government's plans to erase a $32 billion deficit.

The cuts represent 11 per cent of the workforce at Environment Canada, calling into question the department’s ability to carry on its mandate, said Bill Pynn, national president of the Union of Environment Workers, which represents 476 of the affected workers.

"It's massive," Pynn said, saying he can't recall cuts of a similar scale in Ottawa in the last two decades.

A background paper, supplied to The Tyee by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, suggests the cuts will be even worse than Pynn estimates. Drawing on Environment Canada's "Plans and Priorities" document, PSAC forecasts the loss of 935 fulltime-equivalent positions, "about 13.5% of the workforce." (Another PSAC document predicts 1,211 FTEs lost over the next three years.)

The background paper says 34 FTEs will be cut from Water Resources, undermining independent scientific information and advice to decision makers. Another 279 FTEs will be lost in Substance and Waste Management, weakening the ministry's ability to assess environmental threats and ecosystem conservation.

Climate change and clean air will see a cut of 422 FTEs -- "nearly half of the jobs in this program activity." Weather and environmental services will lose a total of 202 FTEs. PSAC says these cuts will harm Canadians' ability to understand health and safety risks from climate change.

As of 10:00 a.m. PDT, Environment Canada had nothing on its media page about the cuts.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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