Parks Canada cuts hit Cape Breton hard
Many federal government employees in Cape Breton are bracing for a shorter work season as Parks Canada takes the brunt of the latest round of job notices.
Eleven seasonal workers at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck will see their hours reduced, while at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, 12 positions are disappearing and the hours of 12 seasonal workers will be cut back.
Those cuts are in addition to the jobs that will be affected at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, where 10 people will lose their jobs and another 110 seasonal positions will be reduced.
Union leaders said Cape Breton is taking a big hit with 165 positions on the island affected, out of a total of about 260.
"There are other areas that are impacted heavily, but this is the biggest on the list," said Eddie Kennedy, national vice-president of the Union of National Employees.
Kennedy said the reduced hours for seasonal workers could mean they no longer qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, which may force many to leave Parks Canada and look for jobs elsewhere.
Percy Paris, Nova Scotia's Minister of Tourism, said the federal government failed to warn the province about the cuts.
"These cuts will have a negative impact on tourism in the province," he said Tuesday in the legislature.
"I would hope that this is an issue, I think, for all members of the house and not just the governing party and I would hope that we all do our part in letting our members of Parliament and certainly the government know that this causes great concerns for us here."
Paris said he will raise the issue next week when provincial tourism ministers meet in New Brunswick.
Tourists won't notice impact, says official
Chip Bird, a Parks Canada field unit supervisor, said he doesn't think tourists will notice the impact of job cuts at parks this summer.
Bird said the workforce will be realigned so that employees are on the job during the peak tourism season, from late May to Thanksgiving.
"None of the measures that we are taking will prevent people from coming, none of the measures that we are taking will reduce the quality of service that people will get when they get here," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
"We'll be fully operational and ready to receive visitors by Victoria Day, which is exactly what we do normally."
Bird said he doesn't think any Parks Canada employees in Cape Breton will be laid off, because there are enough retirements and vacancies to cover any jobs that have been eliminated.
"We're currently in the process of talking to staff, some of whom would like to retire voluntarily, so we'll work through that in the coming months," he said.
"We've had some vacant positions that we've not staffed in the past year or so in anticipation that we would have some fiscal restraint."