Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Axe falls on civil service jobs

Defence to lose 1,100 civilian positions in wake of budget cuts

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OTTAWA -- It was a tense day for the civil service Wednesday as the axe began to fall on jobs following last week's federal budget.

Everything from commerce to culture was affected as departments began to roll out cost-cutting plans mandated by the Conservative government's first real majority budget.

The Opposition decried the cuts as evidence of Tory ideology run amok while the government insisted the layoffs were reasonable to prune the civil service.

The Defence Department was among the first to report losses, with the Union of National Defence Employees saying around 1,100 civilian positions are being eliminated.

Cuts were also announced at regional economic development agencies, the National Film Board and the CBC.

The cuts follow the decision by the Conservatives to cut annual spending by $5.2 billion over the next three years, in part by eliminating 19,200 positions across the country.

At Defence, jobs are being slashed everywhere from research and development to food services, though the government has committed to keeping the regular and reserve fighting forces intact.

"If the government is not going to cut the size of the military or close any bases, who is going to do all the work?" asked union president John MacLennan.

He said the answer is soldiers.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay defended the cuts as natural fallout from the end of the mission in Afghanistan.

"We are now looking at the reorientation of our staff and our other resources," he said in the House of Commons.

The union representing professional employees said 400 of its members were notified their positions are being targeted, which includes some positions at Defence.

A further 1,200 notices will be sent in the coming days.

"Conservatives can say whatever they want, but Canadians are going to lose the services they need," said New Democrat MP Paul Dewar.

The budget said the majority of cuts would come in the Ottawa area but among jobs lost across the country are positions at regional economic agencies, including commerce officers hired to help get start-up companies off the ground.

Small communities will hurt the most, said Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

"A loss of five jobs in Charlottetown can be much bigger than 15 in a big centre," he said.

The Liberals accused the Tories of playing partisan with the public broadcaster. At the National Film Board, 73 positions are being cut as the agency scales back production funding and closes viewing posts in Toronto and Montreal.

-- The Canadian Press

Cuts hit Manitoba

EIGHT civilian defence jobs will be eliminated in Manitoba as the federal Department of National Defence absorbs a $1.1-billion cut to its budget over the next three years.

The jobs were among the first cuts announced Wednesday as the reality of Ottawa's austerity budget begins to take hold. In all, more than 12,000 civil servants will be laid off over the next three years.

Six employees in Winnipeg and two at the base in Shilo received layoff notices. That includes two public affairs personnel in Winnipeg, a dental hygienist and three mediators and dispute-resolution specialists. In Shilo, the jobs are a construction position and the assistant general safety officer.

John MacLennan, president of the Union of National Defence Employees, said there is no explanation for why certain jobs were being cut or how it will save money.

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the chief of defence staff, told union leaders Wednesday military personnel will fill many of the lost civilian jobs. There will be no cuts to military staff.

-- Mia Rabson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2012 A9

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