Two Conservative members of Parliament from New Brunswick are defending the latest round of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, saying the department’s research capacity won’t be hurt.
DFO’s budget is being reduced by nearly $80 million. Late last week, about 16 scientists and librarians received layoff notices at the St. Andrews Biological Station.
The library at the St. Andrews Biological Station will close and library services will be consolidated on the west coast, in Halifax and in Ottawa.
But John Williamson, MP for New Brunswick Southwest, said the cuts won’t be as dramatic as they seem.
“When reductions are happening, or consolidations, notices go out to far more employees than the actual cuts,” said Williamson. “Someone might be leaving or looking for another opportunity or near retirement. Someone might opt out to take that cut which allows for better planning, I think, to ensure that people that remain are there for the long term.”
Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield is also the federal Fisheries Minister. He said in the end, the entire department will lose about 400 people out of its staff of 11,000.
“I know it's difficult for those who may be affected by it, but if we look at it in that context, it's minimal,” he said.
Layoff notices went to the chemists who discovered that pesticide was responsible for killing hundreds of lobsters that washed up on the Fundy Isles a few years ago.
Ashfield dismisses the criticism that the people being let go do important research.
He also rejects the complaint five junior researchers scattered across the country will be responsible for monitoring ocean pollution.
“In this year's budget we added $10.4 million to research and have been doing that consistently since we came to power.”
Williamson argues important research won’t be lost, but outsourced.
“They're also working to avoid some of the duplication that exists between DFO and the Department of the Environment,” he said.
Williamson said the changes to research mean taxpayers will get better value for their money.