Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomes Bernard Valcourt at the start of caucus meetings in Ottawa in June. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The federal minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency says 42 jobs will be eliminated as part of a budget-cutting exercise.

Bernard Valcourt said the agency has identified $15.2 million in savings through cuts and other measures, such as reducing travel and hiring fewer consultants and temporary help.

"ACOA is streamlining its operations and transforming the way it operates to deliver better programs and results," Valcourt said in a release on Wednesday.

"The Agency is now more efficient and will be in a better position to ensure Atlantic Canada’s economic growth. This is simply sound management and is now the norm for how government does business to ensure respect for taxpayers' money."

The cuts are part of department-wide reviews as the federal government tries to cut costs and reduce budgets.

Jeannie Baldwin of the Public Service Alliance of Canada said ACOA is losing 12 positions in Moncton, N.B., two in Nova Scotia and five in Ottawa, although a government official insisted it was too early to tell where the jobs would disappear because of retirements.

Baldwin said she was receiving calls throughout the day from concerned staff.

"They're devastated," she said in Halifax. "What this government should be doing is stimulating the economy by creating jobs, not eliminating jobs."

Affected employees have three support options: a 12-month period to find another job in the public service, retirement with a cash payout worth up to a year's salary based on years of service, or retirement with a cash payout based on years of service with a tuition allowance of up to $11,000.

Robert Chisholm, a New Democrat MP from Nova Scotia, issued a statement blasting the Conservative government for their latest round of cuts to the public service.

"This is just the latest example of Stephen Harper's Conservatives abandoning Atlantic Canada," Chisholm said.

"They have cut search and rescue, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and now ACOA. The East Coast is clearly an after-thought for this administration."

For the fiscal year 2011-2012, the agency's funding was $317.9 million. That's expected to drop by $2 million in the next fiscal year.

ACOA was established in 1987 to stimulate Atlantic Canada's economy. It employs 718 people in 30 offices throughout Atlantic Canada.

With files from The Canadian Press