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NEWS: Kent defends job cuts at Environment Canada

Postmedia News reports, “Hundreds of job cuts (as many as 776 positions) announced over the summer at Environment Canada were not politically motivated and will not affect core services in the department, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Thursday. …Kent also rejected accusations from opposition parties that the decision was deliberately imposed to muzzle scientists conducting research that contradicts government policies. …(And) he dismissed concerns from critics who say the changes in the department will compromise the government’s capacity to assess science and do its own research.”

On July 4, the Council of Canadians issued a media release stating, “Prominent scientists, environmentalists and groups issued a statement addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper decrying cuts to Environment Canada and the impact they will have on Canada’s freshwater sources. …The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Public Service Alliance of Canada warn the departure of dozens of scientists and technicians could hamper Canada’s ability to protect our water supplies across the country.” Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said, “The Harper government is clearly abandoning its responsibility to steward our freshwater heritage for future generations. All life and livelihoods come from our watersheds and ecosystems, and this government is abandoning them to fend for themselves.” The statement was endorsed by nearly 50 environmental, social justice, women’s and First Nations organizations.

In early-June, as reported by the Ottawa Citizen, “the Cohen Commission…received evidence 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 2004) of losing ‘considerable water expertise through attrition and program changes’ and a lack of resources to protect water quality.”

Today’s news report adds, “NDP environment critic Megan Leslie said she didn’t buy Kent’s explanation about no political interference in the cuts. Leslie said, “We do have…a government that consistently fails on the environment as it is. They’re failing to meet their own targets that are already inadequate, so if they’re already failing, how can getting rid of staff actually improve that?”

The parliamentary budget officer has 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 Harper government.