Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Local weather office could still be 'toast'

Jittery workers may get decision shortly

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After months of uncertainty, the fate of Winnipeg's weather office should be known in the next two weeks.

Mark Gerlyand, representative for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said yesterday whatever the decision is, it will end the emotional roller-coaster 60 employees in the Prairie weather office have been riding.

"We have put our lives on hold for months," Gerlyand said.

"It's a game they have been playing for months. This has been dragging on and on. Morale is extremely low."

In December, federal Environment Minister David Anderson told the Free Press in an interview that while no decision about the Winnipeg office had been made, he knew his ministry would not continue to operate 14 weather offices across the country.

"We're not going to have 14, I can promise you that, but there may be reasons for having five, six, three or eight," Anderson said at the time.

"I know we can't justify every one of them now."

Then, in January, Liberal MP Anita Neville announced she had heard the Winnipeg office was staying put.

Few as five

But last week, Anderson raised the spectre of the local office closing again when he told reporters there may be as few as five weather offices left open.

As well, he said he wants a decision to be made in the next two weeks so the issue isn't dragged out any longer.

Jay Anderson, the local weather office's warning preparedness meteorologist, said his fellow workers get nervous when they hear the Environment Minister say only five weather offices may be left open.

"The magic word for us is six -- with five we're toast, but with six we're probably in," he said.

If the Winnipeg office is closed, it would mean the country wouldn't have a weather office between Toronto and Edmonton, a distance of 3,400 kilometres.

Gerlyand said it would be the equivalent of not having a weather office between Winnipeg and Mexico.

Neville said yesterday she has heard nothing about any changes.

"What we heard is we were OK -- I haven't heard anything different," Neville said.

"The Manitoba caucus continues to work hard to try to ensure it stays here in its present format. I'm hopeful nothing will be different."

But NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said, "I'm worried again.

"We had hoped the issue was resolved, but now we think there's still a very grave danger here.

"We'll have to find a way to keep the pressure on."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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