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Pedestrians cross the street near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 27, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Pedestrians cross the street near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 27, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Axe hits Industry Canada amid questions about timing of Tory cuts Add to ...

More than two dozen public servants at Industry Canada were surprised to learn on Monday afternoon that their jobs have been chopped - the latest cut in Ottawa's bid to curb spending.

The workers, all of them based at the department's glass-covered Ottawa headquarters, are primarily commerce officers responsible for dealing with the private sector.

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Other job cuts have taken place in a number of departments over the past few weeks. The list of eliminated positions has grown to include auditors, Bank of Canada workers, managers and museum employees.

But the timing of the news is being questioned given that many of the cuts stem from restraint plans launched more than a year ago - not the government cuts promised in the 2011 budget.

"People didn't know that these plans were in place, of course, until after the government was elected, so I find that whole thing rather distasteful," said Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. "People knew what was going to happen, but they saved announcements until after the election."

Mr. Corbett expects details will continue to trickle out over the summer. Most of the cuts announced over the past month are the result of an exercise launched last year called strategic review, in which 13 organizations - including Industry Canada - were asked to find savings.

But departments are also under pressure from earlier waves of strategic reviews, as well as imposed freezes on spending budgets and the fact that any increases for public service wages must be paid for by internal savings.

In addition, the 2011 budget launched a more aggressive "strategic and operating review" in which Treasury Board President Tony Clement must find annual savings of $4-billion in time for the 2012 budget.

Industry Canada did not respond to requests for comment on Monday, but confirmed the job cuts in writing to union officials.

Earlier this month, Industry Canada spokesman Michel Cimpaye told The Globe and Mail the department expects that "a significant majority" of the jobs affected by the strategic review could be managed through attrition.

Meanwhile, at the National Research Council, Mr. Corbett said his union expects 25 science positions will soon be eliminated, but the individual employees have not yet been told.

An NRC spokesman would not confirm the cuts to science positions, but told The Globe that 52 jobs were recently eliminated as a result of the end of federal stimulus spending.

"The work force adjustment is affecting employees in positions ranging from field staff to management. This includes industrial technology advisors and administration personnel. None of these employees are in scientific positions," spokesman Charles Drouin said in an email.

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