Otto Langer DFO Habitat Staff Cuts
Today all DFO habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now "circled" ie they are being affected by Bill C 38 with it's budget, habitat legislation and program cuts (ie DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Yesterday all staff in BC - Yukon were advised of this happening in a telephone call from Pacific Regional Director General Susan Farlinger. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue.
132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months and if they want to stay in DFO they will have to compete for remaining jobs. In Pacific region they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 staff - ie 32 will be laid off ie an approx. 33% cut in staff. In about 2003 they had about 120 habitat protection staff ie a 50% reduction in staff in the past 8 years.
Also all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo. That means offices such as those in Mission, Campbell River, Prince George, Nelson, Williams Lake, Smithers, Port Hardy, etc are to be shut down. If the Enbridge and the natural gas lines go across northern BC there will be no habitat staff in Prince George or Smithers, etc and the closest offices will be Prince Rupert or Kamloops. In addition the office in in Port Hardy did look after salmon farming issues.
This puts DFO back where it was in the early 1980s ie 5 offices in BC and the same number of staff hey had in about 1978. Thye now have the staff they had in 1978 to deal with many giant projects such as Enbridge, gas lines, gas liquification plants, New Prosperity Gold Mine, Site C Dam on the Peace River, Panamax tankers of jet fuel up the Fraser River, Roberts Bank Port expansion, etc. --- all projects that will now be quickly reviewed and approved by the feds! Never in the pasts 50 year history of habitat protection have we seen such great cuts in staff the face of such massive new industrial development that can and will harm habitat and our fisheries of the future.
Finally, Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove their name Habitat Management Program title from their organization and from their offices etc. in that they are now to be called the Fisheries Protection Program.
In summary this puts DFO back to where they were in the late s1970s in terms of habitat staff numbers in Pacific Region but with next to no legislation to protect overall habitat and with a greatly reduced presence in the field where the habitat damage takes place. Their efforts will of course be distracted over the next year or more in that staff will have to compete for the surviving 60 positions and put their minds to what do can do for a living when laid off and where do they move to to get a job to support their families etc. I am told the very low morale of the staff during the past several years was destroyed by Bill C 38 and now it received its final blow and morale and willingness and direction to do their jobs can now be measured in negative quantities.
For your information I have attached the workload history and staffing of DFO Habitat in Pacific Region over the past 40 years. This was prepared for a number of uses in the past few years including the use by the Auditor General (2008) and in a BC Supreme Court Case (2011) and can now be updated again. One can now say that the Harper Government has 'right sized' the workload for the reduced number of staff! They will protect less habitat despite the incredulous claims of DFO Minister Ashfield and many Conservative MPs that DFO will provide the fishery with better focused protection. More staff - budget cuts have been outlined for 2013 and 2014.
PS. All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC - Alberta border ie Central and Arctic Region will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now - fisheries protection staff) most will be closed and the number of offices having 'habitat' type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area - ie Canada. These cuts are in addition to many already made in the past few weeks in other DFO groups such as research eg. our Marine Contaminants Program across Canada.