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NEWS: Harper’s public service cuts will hurt water protection

The Ottawa Citizen reports, “The departure of dozens of scientists and technicians at Environment Canada this month could mark the beginning of a series of cuts that hamper the department’s ability to protect clean air and water across the country, warns (the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada).”

“The unions have identified at least 56 scientists and technicians from Environment Canada whose jobs are being terminated this month. (PIPSC president Gary) Corbett explained that it could affect the department’s ability to sustain important research in facilities such as the National Water Research Institute, which describes itself as the largest freshwater research entity in the country. The institute says on its website that it works with other partners to generate scientific knowledge required to protect Canada’s water resources and ecosystems.”

“In figures released earlier this week, Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, projected that Environment Canada would need to eliminate 1,211 jobs over the next three years in order to meet the targeted spending cuts identified by the government.”

“The job cuts also follow recent revelations at a public inquiry that previous restructuring efforts had already compromised the government’s ability to crack down on water pollution. …The Cohen Commission, a public inquiry into dwindling stocks of sockeye salmon in B.C., received evidence earlier this month that revealed senior officials from Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have already expressed doubts about being able to enforce existing laws against water pollution because of cuts by the former Liberal government. Two regional department directors warned, in correspondence from the summer of 2004 that was released by the commission, of losing ‘considerable water expertise through attrition and program changes’ and a lack of resources to protect water quality.”

Additionally, in June 2010, the Canadian Press reported, “The government has only murky information about Canada’s water supply and it’s putting Canadians’ health and the economy at risk, an unpublished (March 2009) federal report warns. The report notes Canada is still two decades away from mapping a number of key aquifers.”

The federal report says, “There appears to be insufficient understanding of how much water is presently available; where available water is located; how severe Canada’s regional water availability issues are; current and forecasted demands for water usage; and the anticipated impacts of climate change on future water supplies.”

In August 2009, the Canadian Press also reported that, “The federal government is taking too long to map Canada’s stores of groundwater (says a briefing note prepared for the federal natural resources minister). The slow going hinders Ottawa’s ability to make big decisions about the country’s water.”

The Harper government says that 80,000 public service jobs can be eliminated over the next three years through retirements and attrition. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that no more than 40,000 jobs can be eliminated through attrition, meaning 40,000 employees would have to be laid off. Overall, the loss of 80,000 jobs would mean a 45 percent cut to the 178,000 member public service.

The full article is at http://www.canada.com/health/story.html?id=4966712.