The Yukon government is shedding people from its oil and gas branch, signalling a lull in activity, and the government's current priorities.
John Fox, the assistant deputy minister for oil, gas and mineral resources, said the branch's workforce has been almost halved — going from nine staff to five. He says the re-organization has been in the works for a while, and is "based on lower levels of activity."
"At this point in time, I think we've landed on the right number for staff to support the work we anticipate for the branch," he said.
According to Fox, nobody's being laid off. The affected employees have been reassigned elsewhere in government — some of them to the mineral resources branch.
"We have seen a significant uptick in activities in the mineral industry," Fox said.
Re-setting First Nations relationships
The move follows the government's announcement two weeks ago that it was effectively halting the process by which oil and gas exploration rights are awarded. Resources Minister Ranj Pillai said it was prompted by First Nations' concerns about the process.
"There is a significant amount of work to do on re-setting First Nations relationships, as it relates to oil and gas," said Fox. "That is, of course, a priority of this government, across the board."
Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent is not impressed, though. He thinks it's a mistake to put the brakes on oil and gas development, and to shrink the government branch.
"This does send another message to industry that oil and gas isn't a priority for this Liberal government, and it's really too bad," he said.
"If you're serious about having oil and gas development in the territory, then you certainly have to be serious about promoting it and showing investors that you support this industry."