Cuts could make St. John's a 'colonial outpost,' mayor fears

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe is steamed that the federal government is terminating another decision-making position in his city.

O'Keefe rips into transfer of decision-making jobs, particularly to Halifax

Dennis O'Keefe says he is worried St. John's will become a 'colonial outpost' of Halifax. (CBC)

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe is steamed that the federal government is terminating another position of authority in his city, with decisions to made on the mainland, particularly in Nova Scotia.

"What bugs me the most is that we now see a flight of positions in Newfoundland and Labrador being moved, primarily to Halifax, Nova Scotia," O'Keefe told CBC News, reacting to details of cuts rolling out from the federal budget.

St. John's has been been developing its port in the international cruise industry. (CBC )

One of the casualties is the position of the regional director for customs and border services.

"If this continues, we'll end up being a colonial outpost — not of Ottawa, but of Halifax," O'Keefe said.

O'Keefe said the loss is significant for several reasons, including the city's well-publicized campaign to generate more cruise ship traffic — not just to St. John's but also to other areas. Most other places are not recognized as official places to disembark, known as CSOs, or cruise ship operations.

"If we're going to have critical positions like that moved out of the province at a time when we're trying to deal with CSO issues and cost-recovery issues, [then] the decision-making move to Halifax is not going to help solving those challenges, and so the impact is going to be negative, particularly in other communities," O'Keefe said.

The federal government is also closing three labs in St. John's that have been managed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, with 14 jobs among the casualties.

Operations will be moved to Halifax, as well as Charlottetown, P.E.I.

St. John's East MP Jack Harris said he is puzzled that one of the the labs inspected seafood products from Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It's difficult enough right now to make this work," Harris told CBC News.

"Now they're going to move that somewhere else — Dartmouth, I believe. The people themselves are being offered jobs in Prince Edward Island. What sense does that make?"

Two of the labs inspected food and plant samples from across the country.