Nfld. & Labrador

DFO insists 'modest' cuts won't hamper harbour authority services

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is insisting changes to the management structures and personnel serving harbour authorities won't impact the level of service being provided by Small Craft Harbours in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The harbour authorities around the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador are considering resigning in the face of cuts from DFO. Harbour authorities operate wharves in communities like Catalina, pictured above. (Submitted by Mick Feehan)

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is insisting changes to the management structures and personnel serving harbour authorities won't impact the level of service being provided by Small Craft Harbours in Newfoundland and Labrador.

On Tuesday, CBC's Fisheries Broadcast reported that hundreds of mostly volunteer-based harbour authorities were threatening to quit in the face of cuts to people and services that support the program.

The cuts include reducing four areas covering harbour authorities in the province down to two; and by extension, the number of area managers would also be reduced from four to two.

Additionally, seven program officers would also be reduced to six, and annual harbour authority seminars would instead be held every second year — and only one representative of each harbour authority would have travel costs covered to attend.

There's no office closings, no reduction in our client service locations, no front line job losses, the total number of our program officers and our project support technicians remain unchanged.- DFO's Bill Goulding

Bill Goulding, the acting associate regional director general for DFO in Newfoundland and Labrador, says the changes represent "moderate organizational changes to its area office structure," adding that services to volunteers won’t be affected.

"When the management committee in the Newfoundland and Labrador region looked at our organizational structure … we thought there was an opportunity to re-balance our resources, look at the programs we were delivering and see if they might be restructured in a more efficient and effective way — the outcome of this is the modest changes that we've announced," Goulding told CBC News.

"There's no office closings, no reduction in our client service locations, no front line job losses, the total number of our program officers and our project support technicians remain unchanged. All these things are going to contribute to the impact of this being quite modest on the harbour authority community in our view."

No other cuts

Goulding said once cuts are completed, there would be a total of 32 position with small craft harbours in Newfoundland and Labrador including managers and officers.

"There's a significant compliment of human resources working on behalf of harbour authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.

One of the big concerns raised by the Harbour Authority Association of Newfoundland and Labrador is the fact the cuts to services are happening in this province but nowhere else.

Those concerns were echoed by Liberal Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne.

Goulding said each region of DFO is mandated to does what it thinks best with respect to delivery of services.

"I really can't comment on how other regions are structured," he said. "But each region of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is structured based on specific regional needs. Our internal structure has changed somewhat as a result of this, but it is not impacting on the services.

"I think one of the strengths of fisheries and oceans is the organizations can be tailored to meet the needs in each region of the country."

Goulding also said the idea that the cuts were made with bonuses in mind for senior government executives is off the mark.

"I can tell you with certainty there's absolutely no connection to this with performance bonuses that exist in the federal government for executive. The suggestion is categorically incorrect," he said.

As for the threat that harbour authorities would resign en masse, Goulding said that type of action wouldn’t be "very helpful" to harbour authorities or in the interests of Newfoundland and Labrador and the coastal communities that rely on having good effective harbour authorities.

"I really don't see that happening. But we're keen to continue the dialogue," he said.

About the Author

Jamie Baker

Fisheries

Jamie Baker hosts The Broadcast each weekday on CBC Radio.

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