MNR still fuzzy on its plan

This past week, many Ministry of Natural Resources’ employees across the northwest received layoff notices as a result of the department’s long-term restructuring plan.
While the impact for individual communities varies depending on the source of information (with the union representing the employees providing one set of figures that show losses while the minister of natural resources maintains the end result will be a net increase in jobs for some communities and an overall gain of 13 jobs across the riding), it remains clear the MNR still is not being transparent about the changes being made.
More than any other department, the MNR has a fundamental impact on northerners’ way of life. Charged with ensuring that our resources are managed in a sustainable manner, that allows for the long-term viability of both our way of life and our economy, the decisions made by this department can mean the difference between success and failure for our region.
Yet this government continues to make cuts to this department without full disclosure, without consultation, and, in many cases, without considering the long-term impacts these decisions will have—and that is what is truly disturbing.
All we have been told about the latest round of cuts is “trust us.” Unfortunately, at this point, the ministry officials who are making these decisions do not get the benefit of the doubt.
In recent years, the ministry has bungled changes to its outdoors licensing programs by outsourcing jobs to the United States, and to the “BearWise” program by creating a dangerous gap in service when it failed to co-ordinate with other agencies to deal with nuisance and aggressive bear populations.
While the minister maintains that the end result is a “net increase” in jobs, something about the math he uses does not add up. Too often departments use “full-time equivalents,” or part-timers, to make up for a full-time position.
This is not an apples-to-apples comparison, and this change alone could compromise the invaluable institutional knowledge that many current employees possess.
So could the types of jobs we are losing in our regional MNR offices—those being Geographic Information Systems (GIS) officers. There is widespread concern that the loss of these positions will be detrimental to local knowledge we collect, which helps us better plan to manage our resources.
Many people have asked me how we can be expected to plan if we don’t have this local knowledge, and if local knowledge even will be factored in to future policy decisions.
It is time for Minister Orazietti to step to the plate and show us the details of his government’s plan and how it will alter the face of the MNR across the northwest.
While I’m grateful he took the time to chat with me to discuss these changes personally, the discussion left me with more questions than answers that he would not answer.
In so many ways, the MNR is our ministry. We deserve to know what’s happening.