Close to $2 million will be spent to renovate the Moncton building of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc made the announcement Monday, saying Ottawa will spend $1.8M to turn the site on University Avenue into a large, scientific research centre.

The Gulf Fisheries Centre — a heritage building that housed Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie, a school for girls run by nuns, until 1965 — is the department's headquarters office for the region.  

The bulk of the money will go to infrastructure work on the building, including a new roof.

LeBlanc said he hopes to attract partnerships with academics and universities but did not go into detail about the research program that will operate out of the centre.

30 to 40 jobs from Ottawa 

Part of the work involves moving the small crafts harbour program from Ottawa to Moncton.

The move will be complete by April 2018.

LeBlanc said of the 1,000 or so federally owned small craft harbours in the country, 70 per cent are located in Atlantic Canada or Quebec.

Dominic LeBlanc

Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced $1.8M Monday to renovate the department's building in Moncton. (CBC)

"From my perspective," LeBlanc said, "it makes sense to have the small craft harbour national program closer to the people affected by the program and benefiting from the program."

The switch will involve moving about 30 to 40 people to Moncton from Ottawa.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, who was on hand for the announcement, said he hopes to see some jobs open up for New Brunswickers as well.

"If some of them, for whatever reason — family or otherwise — aren't able to make that switch and come here," said Gallant, "it is going to be a great opportunity for many young people — many New Brunswickers, to be able to get a job right here at home, making a difference for our whole country."

Gallant said the jobs would be engineering and other high-paying positions.

DFO

LeBlanc hopes the Fisheries Department will add more jobs in Moncton once the renovations are complete. (CBC)

LeBlanc said moving the 30 or 40 jobs from the small crafts harbour program in Ottawa is a sort of "down payment" to show the government's commitment to spending money in the region.

"Our department is adding hundreds of new science jobs across the country that didn't exist a year ago because we've been given increased budgets to do marine science and ocean protection," LeBlanc said.

The new scientific centre in Moncton will also have an interpretive public space, which will include a skeleton of a north Atlantic right whale on exhibit.