Federal jobs on the chopping block

Forty Yukoners working for the federal government are waiting to find out if they'll have a job by the end of the summer. And they aren't alone.

Forty Yukoners working for the federal government are waiting to find out if they’ll have a job by the end of the summer.

And they aren’t alone.

Across the three territories, 124 federal employees, all members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, have been told that their jobs are on the chopping block.

It’s a difficult situation for these workers, said Julie Docherty, the union’s regional executive vice-president for the North.

“They haven’t been told if their job is going to be kept or not, so they are living in limbo, living in fear and quite frankly wondering, are they going to have a job, are they going be able to pay their mortgages,” she said. “For some of our members, both earners have been effected.

“You can only imagine how they are, the situation they are living in right now.”

The union has been trying to find out details on the cuts, but so far the government has been tight lipped about its plans. And that’s not just with the union, said Docherty.

Even the government’s own parliamentary budget officer has had trouble finding out what is going to be cut, she said.

“It has been quite the struggle to get good, clear information,” said Docherty.

In addition to the 124 union members across the North who have been given notices, there are another 34 positions in the three territories slated to be cut, but not yet identified.

“These cuts are going to have such a detrimental effect, not only on those that lose their livelihood and may have to leave the North, but it affects our small business owners and big business members who live in our community and keep our economy growing,” she said.

With many of the cuts aimed at Parks Canada, it’s certainly a concern for the territory’s tourism operators, said Blake Rogers, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon.

After mining, tourism is one of the biggest sectors of the Yukon’s economy, he said.

Because Parks Canada handles so much of the territory’s tourism, it’s going to be hard to fill the hole left in its absence, said Rogers.

“The biggest concern is that there has been no plan that we know of,” he said. “There has been no discussion with the federal government or territorial government about filling in these gaps.”

When the tourism association approached Yukon MP Ryan Leef about these cuts, he told them he was going to make a case for Parks Canada to the federal government.

They were supposed to have a follow-up meeting in early June, but the association is still waiting.

Funding for Parks Canada is money well spent, said Rogers.

According to a report by the federal government last year, Parks Canada sites in the Yukon produced almost $6.9 million in direct revenue, contributed $10.2 million to the Yukon’s gross domestic product, generated $7.5 million in labour income, created the equivalent of 145 full-time jobs and brought in $600,000 in tax revenue to the territory, in 2009.

“Unless there’s some hidden document out there showing that Parks Canada is bad for the economy somehow, it just doesn’t make any sense,” said Rogers.

When simply getting information from the government is “like pulling teeth,” said Docherty, getting them to actually reconsider the cuts will be even harder.

“The Harper government has disdain and a hostility to anything that has the word ‘public’ in it, to anything that has the word ‘services’ in it and to anything that refers to our public sector workers,” she said.

She’s hoping that putting pressure on the Yukon’s territorial and federal representatives will be more effective.

“We have to get the attention of Leef and (Premier Darrell) Pasloski and tell them they are doing such a disservice to Yukoners, get them engaged in this and get them to start standing up for Yukoners, instead of abandoning them at the time when we need them most,” said Docherty. “They should be ashamed.”

Both Leef and Pasloski were unavailable for comment.

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