An internationally respected Nova Scotia-based scientist working for the federal government has been told his job is in danger, CBC News has learned.
Kenneth Lee — an oil spill expert and the executive director of the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth — recently received a workforce adjustment letter informing him that his position is being eliminated.
Lee confirmed he received the notice and his research centre is being eliminated, but declined an interview with CBC News on Monday.
Others scientists are speaking out.
"I'm no longer surprised but I'm increasingly angry and I'm also extremely wary of what the future means for Canada," said Jeff Hutchings, a biology professor at Dalhousie University.
"The government's decisions lately are reducing our governmental scientific capacity and what that means is that it's reducing or seriously compromising the ability of science to contribute effectively to those decisions that affect the well being, the safety and the health of Canadians and their environment."
According to affected unions, more than 1,000 workers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada have received notices across the country that their jobs could be affected by pending cuts.
A spokesman for the department told CBC News in an email on Monday that only about 400 jobs are actually being eliminated. They declined to speak about Lee's case.
In 2010, Lee joined experts trying to contain the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and provided scientific and technical expertise in the spill response operations.
"Dr. Lee is a leading expert on the use of chemical dispersants to clean up oil spills," Fisheries and Oceans Canada wrote on its website.
"The oil spill response operations in the Gulf of Mexico have provided new insights for development of international guidelines on the use of chemical oil dispersants."
Now that Lee's position is disappearing, it's not clear whether he will continue to be in the federal government's employ.
"It's a huge deal. I think Canadians seriously need to wake up to the fact that this isn't simply about scientists or researchers losing their jobs, but it's about the fact that Canada — over the last half-century — has built up an extremely impressive scientific capacity to deal with all sorts of different forms of scientific research," said Hutchings.
"By cutting back and reducing and eliminating those positions, we are not only affecting those individuals but we are affecting us as a society and we are seriously affecting our government's ability to make wise decisions on our behalf."