Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

October 09, 2007 09:18 ET

John Baird Downplaying Problems at Environment Canada-Undermining Employee Rights and Their Ability to Get Results for Canadians, Says PIPSC

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 9, 2007) - The union representing professionals and scientists at Environment Canada says that the messages from the Minister of the Environment and his senior officials about recent media coverage of budget concerns belie problems far more serious than they are letting on. Although John Baird and the deputy minister have indicated that the department's overall budget has increased this year, they are down-playing the fact that the operational budgets of key programs are so restricted that they cannot function.

Minister of the Environment John Baird went on record last week in a press release to reassure Canadians that "priority programs related to all areas of the environment are maintained" and that he has instructed the department "to provide the financial flexibility required to programs and services in critical areas, such as the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Meteorological Service of Canada so that they are maintained, and that there are no layoffs of indeterminate staff."

However, internal messages to employees from senior management, including from the deputy minister and his associate, explicitly confirm that programs and priorities will need to be assessed and money re-allocated. While this assessment proceeds the budgets for travel, training, career development will be restricted. Even despite a rise in the budget of the department, operations will be so restricted as to defer some programming and make much of the rest non-functional. How are the employees of the department supposed to deliver results if they cannot leave their office to do field work, travel to meetings, purchase equipment or supplies, or in some cases even pay for teleconferences? The Minister's message does not mention what these restrictions will mean for other programs within Environment Canada including monitoring and forecasting weather, environmental protection, research in Greenhouse gases, air quality initiatives and other obligations.

Officials of Environment Canada also appear ready to suspend or defer the training and career development provisions which form part of the collective agreements signed with Treasury Board on their behalf. Without the means to remain current in the challenging fields of environmental science, how are employees supposed to provide Canadians the protection and service they deserve?

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) is also concerned that Environment Canada officials are considering short term solutions to try and maintain service levels at the expense of their employees, such as converting part of the salary budget to operational funds to deal with this short-fall. This does not show leadership in addressing the vacancies that have plagued the department for years, lowering morale and limiting employees' productivity. In no way does it address the demographic challenges in the department and the entire public service or respect the obvious need for recruitment of young professionals and scientists to serve our collective interest.

"It is rumoured that some divisions have operating funds but not enough salary to keep their staff, while other divisions have vacancies and salary but not operating budget. All of this is taking place in context of a departmental budget claimed to be 'increasing' when in fact much of the increase is funds leaving the department. Is this why John Baird has instructed the department to be 'flexible'?," asked Michele Demers, President of the Professional Institute.

"Is this the tip of the iceberg for changes to the federal Environment Department under Canada's new government? Environment Canada has been in the news with significant program reviews and cuts more than 5 times in the past 15 years and it is time to stop. When public support for environmental programming is at an all time high, why is John Baird undermining the ability of his professional and scientific staff to get results? If conservation of biodiversity and related programs remain on the political agenda then the Minister needs to step up and make a real commitment to this department, its employees, and the programs that Canadians rely on.

PIPSC is watching and hopes that the minister will step up and secure all the funding required to deliver on his environmental agenda," she added

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is the national union representing 55,000 professionals and scientists across Canada who are proud of the protection they provide to our environmental heritage.

Contact Information

  • Media Enquiries:
    Francine Pressault
    Media & Government Relations Officer
    613-228-6310, ext. 2228