Restructuring at the National Gallery of Canada will affect every department, says Marc Mayer, director and CEO. ((Emily Chung/CBC))

The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is laying off 18 people and eliminating a total of 27 positions as part of a major restructuring.

Marc Mayer, director and CEO of the gallery, confirmed the cuts Wednesday. He said nine will not result in job losses because they involve vacant positions that won't be filled or employees that are about to retire.

Mayer said the layoffs are hard on a personal level but that, overall, the restructuring is good news.

"We're reorganizing in order to be much more efficient, in order to work much more easily together and to deliver the kinds of services that Canadians want from their National Gallery," he said.

Every department will be affected by the changes to a certain extent. The gallery is merging departments whose employees should be working together, like curators and gallery workers who deliver education programs, Mayer said.


Marc Mayer, who was named head of the National Gallery in December 2008, says he wanted to get to know the museum over four seasons before making changes . ((National Gallery of Canada))

The gallery has been struggling with a deficit. In order to trim the budget, it will spend less on exhibitions.

"We're going to do them differently," Mayer said. "It's time now to work in a new way."

Smaller exhibitions might be changed or postponed, but larger ones will go ahead. However, Mayer indicated he doesn't think the gallery should be spending a lot on exhibitions in the winter, since it gets most of its visitors in the summer.

The gallery will continue to support its touring program, which brings exhibitions to various parts of the country.

The gallery is re-evaluating all its education programs and will revamp such programs both in the gallery and online, Mayer said. For example, he thinks too few artworks have labels that explain them.

There will also be a major change in the gallery's approach to fundraising through its foundation. It will now focus exclusively on major gifts that will support endowments. It will continue to raise money through memberships and sponsorships, but those will fall under a different department.

Mayer, who was appointed director of the National Gallery in December 2008, said he waited until now to make changes because he wanted to get to know the gallery over four seasons first.

All federal museums running deficits

The gallery's revenues took a hit last year when fewer tourists visited, and Mayer doesn't expect the numbers to bounce back this year.

"That's really where our problems lie," he said. "It's the economy."

Daniel Kinsella, national president of the union component that represents about 200 employees at the gallery, said as far as he knows, all federal museums are facing a deficit.

"When the budget was announced, there was no new money for them or anyone else," said Kinsella, who heads the national component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "Clearly, the government is the one who is responsible for not funding these agencies properly."

Kinsella said 10 gallery positions held by union members were cut, about half in the area of fundraising.