Sask. Ministry of Environment ending front counter service at 19 offices

Offices in Assiniboia, Big River, Buffalo Narrows, Estevan, Humboldt, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Kindersley, Leader, Lloydminster, Maple Creek, Moose Jaw, Outlook, Pinehouse, Preeceville, Shaunavon, Southend, Spiritwood, Wadena and Weyburn are all affected, a news release said.

Province says 19 jobs affected

Nineteen Ministry of Environment offices in Saskatchewan will no longer offer front counter services. (Serova_Ekaterina/Shutterstock)

The provincial Ministry of Environment is ending front counter service at 19 offices around Saskatchewan.

Sixteen part-time staff and three full-time staff will be affected by the service change, according to a Ministry of Environment news release Thursday. One of the full-time staff will be transferred and the rest will be laid off, the ministry said. 

Offices in Assiniboia, Big River, Buffalo Narrows, Estevan, Humboldt, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Kindersley, Leader, Lloydminster, Maple Creek, Moose Jaw, Outlook, Pinehouse, Preeceville, Shaunavon, Southend, Spiritwood, Wadena and Weyburn are all affected.

"Dates for this change will vary with location from April 1, 2019, to October 1, 2019," the ministry's news release said.

"Most offices will discontinue front counter service on May 14, 2019."

People who used those locations are encouraged to use electronic self-serve options where possible. They can also obtain hunting, fishing and trapping licences from private vendors or one of 13 other offices in the province that will maintain walk-in services, or over the phone.

Kevin Murphy, an assistant deputy minister within the environment ministry, said a majority of the services offered at the front desks have already moved online.

The ministry said the offices ceasing walk-ins sold roughly two per cent of the 409,000 hunting and angling licences sold in 2018.

Changes coming to sample collection

The provincial animal-head testing program for chronic wasting disease — a fatal illness that affects members of the deer family — is one program that will likely see changes as a result of this service change.

"I expect that we are going to be asking people to go to a different location," Murphy said, adding that any changes to the program will be communicated to hunters closer to hunting season.

He said the ministry had started exploring different methods to collect head samples from hunters, including private individuals.

That could mean the ministry starts collecting more heads to test for chronic wasting disease.

"It has been problematic for us. We've seen an overall decline in the number of samples, so we want to change that and make things more convenient for hunters," Murphy said.