Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is calling on Environment Minister Peter Kent to reverse job cuts in his department that she says are disproportionately targeting climate change researchers.
May said she's received emails from employees and that the scientific community is buzzing about layoff notices recently given to 46 workers.
According to Parliament's only Green MP, the employees were given one-month notice that their temporary positions were being eliminated.
"Word is leaking out in the scientific community, we are losing scientists and we are losing capacity," May said at a news conference on Parliament Hill.
May said the job cuts were made from four different research groups within Environment Canada that do modeling and data analysis work on climate change and on how Canadians can adapt to climate change and shifting weather patterns. She said she's been told the operating budgets for the research programs have also been cut, but did not say by how much.
May said based on the information she's received, the Conservatives are "disproportionately" cutting climate change researchers and programs, and she called on the government to reconsider the job cuts and to be more transparent about staff and budget reductions.
"Let's reverse that, let's have transparency and let's think about how many people can be lost from certain programs without absolutely annihilating the ability of those research groups to do their work," she said.
No permanent employees gone: spokeswoman
A spokeswoman for Kent said that no permanent employees have lost their jobs. It was normal practice for temporary employees (term workers) to automatically be given permanent jobs after three years of contract work.
Melissa Lantsman said Environment Canada has advised contract workers that practice will no longer be followed.
"Temporary or contract employees are hired to perform a specific job over a fixed period of time and before making a position permanent we need to make sure that it makes good financial sense to do so," Lantsman said in an email. "In this economic climate we need to ensure that we are being prudent with taxpayer money. Notice was given to all such employees in an effort to ensure complete transparency."
Lantsman said the new policy will apply from June 1 until May 31, 2013. The 46 affected employees are on contracts that finish at various times, she confirmed.
May said Environment Canada should keep these scientists employed because their work is "crucial," particularly given the increased number of floods, storms and other extreme weather events linked to climate change that are impacting Canada's economy, she said.
"Cutting out our ability to model, predict, adapt and cope with a changed climate is pennywise and pound foolish. It's going to cost us much more long-term to cut these particular scientists and to cut the capacity that Canada needs to expand to anticipate climate impacts on the Canadian economy, on our environment, on our society as a whole," said May.