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Brand-new facilities go unused as St. Andrews Biological Station's budget is slashed by 25 percent

Reducing fisheries monitoring and oversight in New Brunswick "just another nail in the coffin in the death of evidence."

Aylward: This 1-2 punch hit small towns hard; local economy depends on fed jobs, sustainable fisheryST. ANDREWS, NB, July 18, 2012: Leaders of the largest federal public sector unions were in St. Andrews, New Brunswick to join a groundswell of opposition to federal cuts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans's St. Andrews Biological Station. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada's (PIPSC) National President Gary Corbett, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) National Vice-President Chris Aylward and the Union of Environment Workers (UEW) National President Todd Panas joined politicians and experts in marine science at a town hall event at the Fundy Discovery Aquarium. The station's Contaminants and Toxicology Department has been eliminated, its library is being moved and some of its employees have received "affected" letters. And the community is fighting back.

"The event gave the public a chance to hear about the impact of cuts on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans's scientific activities, and to show its support for the invaluable work done right here in St. Andrews," said event organizer Caroline Davies.

  "There are always serious consequences when it becomes policy to turn a blind eye."

The federal unions represent workers at the station and have been outspoken about the reckless cuts mandated by the recent federal budget. This includes a $79 million reduction to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Between 2011 and 2015, the department's budget is expected to shrink by 25 percent.

"The infrastructure that keeps our fragile marine environments intact while supporting the fishing industry is being dismantled by stripping the mandate and capacity of this department and by dramatically weakening of the Fisheries Act," said PSAC's Chris Aylward. "This one-two punch hits small towns like St. Andrews hard where the local economy depends on federal jobs and a sustainable fishery."

The union that represents scientists working for the federal government says these cuts represent a clear attack on the ability of government to make evidence-based decisions that allow for responsibly regulated industry while at the same time protecting marine environments.

"Eliminating capacity for monitoring and oversight like the Contaminants and Toxicology Department at St. Andrews is just another nail in the coffin in the death of evidence," said PIPSC's Gary Corbett. "There are always serious consequences when it becomes policy to turn a blind eye."

The St. Andrews Biological Station's brand new $62 million facility became operational in May, but has yet officially to open its doors.

"The irony is bitter," says UEW President Todd Panas. "A brand new library will lay fallow and a state of the art facility specifically geared towards research in contaminants and toxicology will become underutilized."

Many staff at the station recently received letters notifying them that they could lose their jobs.

"Our members are anxious for their future and for their families. They are frustrated because they have worked hard to serve Canadians. And they are worried about what these cuts mean for those who rely on public services," said Aylward.

"Taking jobs out of a community like St. Andrews also means taking opportunities away from young future scientists," added Corbett.

Links and sources
  Union leaders send out SOS for St. Andrews Biological Station

Posted: August 01, 2012

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