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Green Party Leader Elizabeth May holds a news conference in Vancouver during the federal election campaign on March 30, 2011. (DON MACKINNON/AFP/Getty Images)
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May holds a news conference in Vancouver during the federal election campaign on March 30, 2011. (DON MACKINNON/AFP/Getty Images)

Budget Cuts

Tory axe hits 'muscle and bone' of climate science, Elizabeth May says Add to ...

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is accusing Stephen Harper of letting ideology dictate job cuts to climate scientists at Environment Canada. And she is calling on Environment Minister Peter Kent to reverse them.

"What is clear to me is that the cuts are not in fat," Ms. May said. "This is cuts into muscle and bone."

Ms. May, who spoke to The Globe after holding a news conference Wednesday, is referring to 46 scientists in the climate-research area - all term employees - who were recently given their one-month notice.

The federal government is on a cost-cutting exercise, trying to identify areas where savings can be made in the hopes of saving $4 billion annually. But Ms. May says particular this staff reduction goes too far.

"If you are looking to make cuts in the federal civil service I would be the last one to say that you couldn't find places you could cut that didn't absolutely cripple programs," Ms. May said. "But removing all the term scientists from important research in climate?"

She says the government is "disproportionately targeting" climate-change research. "And the only reason I can see for that is ideological. I don't think it's the minister. I think it comes from the top but it means that climate is a target of cuts," she charged.

The Prime Minister and his government have expressed some skepticism about the science around climate change. But Ms. May said Wednesday that without these scientists and the research capacity they provide, "Canada will be in a much worse situation."

Some of these scientists, she said, research scenarios on how the country can cope with snow loads, wind loads, floods and other common weather-related hazards facing Canadians this summer. "This is not research into whether climate change occurs or why it occurs," she said.

Ms. May acknowledged, however, that she has not yet spoken to Mr. Kent about the reason for the cuts.

Contacted by The Globe, the Environment Minister's director of communications said "no indeterminate or permanent Environment Canada employees have been laid off."

But Melissa Lantsman conceded the department has "advised contract employees that they will not automatically receive permanent job status after three years of contract service."

"Notice was given to all such employees in an effort to ensure complete transparency," she said, noting the measure came into effect on June 1 and will continue to May 31, 2013. "Managers can continue to use term employment where appropriate. However, the department is introducing a significant change to the way in which we manage term employment."

In the past, Ms. Lantsman said this practice was automatic. But that has changed because of the economic climate. "We need to ensure that we are being prudent with taxpayer money," she said.

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