An announcement about the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds site turned sour on Sunday when federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt tried to leave the event and was confronted by protesters.
About 20 protesters — working within several different government agencies and departments — carried placards and approached Raitt, questioning various cuts to federal government agencies.
Theresa MacInnis, the national vice-president for the Canada Employment and Immigration Union — a division of the Public Service Alliance of Canada — was one of the protesters.
She said the most recent round of cuts will see 100 Service Canada jobs and about ten Canada Post jobs leave Cape Breton.
"We're here today because we have a minister here and we want to make sure that Ottawa knows that Cape Breton has a labour force that is well trained and it's important to keep jobs here in Cape Breton," said MacInnis.
"We're hoping that the minister will bring this message back to Ottawa, to Stephen Harper and to ministers in this Conservative government."
Canada Post employees are also upset with Raitt and the federal government, which announced in September that it would be shutting down the undeliverable mail office in North Sydney.
"That building there handles 80 per cent of this country's mail, where Ontario handles 20 per cent and they are going to move that complete operation out of North Sydney just to put those jobs in Ontario," said Gordon MacDonald, president of Local 117 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
"Here in Cape Breton, they [jobs] are important, they are family orientated, people respect their jobs. When they go to Ontario that's it. That's it, they're gone. Never coming back."
Raitt took the confrontation in stride, saying the cuts to Canada Post are not under her control because the organization is its own entity.
Canada Post is a Crown corporation that reports to the federal government through the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, according to its website.
As for the cuts to other government departments and agencies, Raitt said they were necessary.
"I was part of the process in government that took a look at all the departments across the government to make sure that we're spending taxpayer dollars the best, efficient way we can. We saw that there was a lot of duplication of services," said Raitt.
"We've made some decisions right across government so there's a total amount of about $5 billion across the country and it's all the same in every other geographic area."
After a brief exchange with protesters, Raitt got into a car and left. The protesters chanted, "Shame," at she walked away.
Raitt said the Conservatives were elected on a platform of cutting government costs and streamlining government services, and that's exactly what they're doing.