Nearly half of the roughly 5,000 people working at Statistics Canada are being warned that their jobs are at risk, suggesting deep cuts are in store for one of the country’s most trusted sources of information.
The notices to staff that their employment could be affected by cuts are the second major blow to the organization in recent years, after the Conservative government’s 2010 decision to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary one. Canada’s chief statistician resigned in protest over the change.
Everyone from the Bank of Canada to academics, economists, marketers, urban planners and public policy researchers use Statistics Canada surveys.
The agency has a shortfall of nearly 10 per cent due to a mix of budget cuts and a plunge in revenue as other federal departments, such as Human Resources and Transport Canada for which it does surveys, face cuts themselves.
“There is no doubt that the cuts can’t be absorbed without reducing the amount of information Statistics Canada produces,” said Michael Veall, president of the Canadian Economics Association and an economics professor at McMaster University.
Frances Woolley, an economics professor at Carleton University, said she's concerned data collection and processing might be contracted out.
“The great strength of StatCan analysis is that it is non-political and non-partisan - it's analysis that people can trust,” she said.
The more than 2,300 notices at Statistics Canada were part of another big wave of internal cuts announced in at least 10 departments, affecting nearly 7,000 government employees under three major unions.
While some public servants were laid off on Monday, most who receive notices will likely remain in the public service once various staffing changes play out.
The March 29 budget indicated that when the cost cutting over the next two years is complete, the government expects to have reduced federal positions by 19,200 and to be saving $5.2-billion a year.
Parks Canada also signalled deep cuts to staff on Monday.
Union leaders said Canadians will see shorter seasons at national parks and historic sites as a result.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) – the largest union of federal public servants – said 1,689 PSAC members at Parks Canada received notices and staff were told that 638 positions will be eliminated.
According to the union, Parks Canada workers whose jobs could be affected include scientists, engineers, technicians, mechanics, carpenters and program managers. Seasonal workers are being told they will work for shorter periods and hours will be reduced.
-At Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 908 PSAC members received notices, including in areas aimed at helping aboriginals and people with disabilities find jobs. The union said the cuts to workforce programs contradict the government’s claims it is addressing Canada’s labour skills shortages.
-At Transport Canada, union leaders say airport and marine security will be sacrificed as 180 PSAC members received notices. The union said notices were given on Monday to 11 air security inspectors whose work is “double checking” airport security. A Transport Canada official said the cuts are “minor” and will have “no impact” on safety.
-The department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development confirmed it will eliminate 480 positions over the next two years.
- At Library and Archives Canada, 235 PSAC members received notices their jobs could be affected, and 105 positions are expected to be eliminated. Notices also went to 69 employees with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).
“These are people that document and archive our history, our heritage and to keep it for future generations. I guess that’s not important,” PIPSC president Gary Corbett said sarcastically.
At Correctional Services Canada, 17 inmate rights and redress workers received notices. John Edmunds of the Union of Solicitor General Employees warned that prisons become more dangerous when prisoners feel their concerns are not heard.
A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said an internal review found room to streamline the grievance process. The department is also aiming to better manage “frivolous” grievances from inmates.