As DFO Jobs End, Consultations Begin?

On the heels of announcing a huge number of public service layoffs, including 250 jobs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Harper Conservatives announced a consultation process to take place this summer on the newly eviscerated Fisheries Act. 

“It is obvious that the Harper Conservatives are blasting ahead with their plans to allow any and all development to take precedence over environmental protection, so I don’t know why they are bothering with a consultation,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands. 

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been the target of drastic cuts, including a vital toxicology group in New Brunswick which monitors marine toxins, among other programs. 

“We’ve lost nine scientists in my riding, including internationally respected marine mammal expert Dr. Peter Ross, as part of the eradication of the entire DFO contaminants program.  This is a clear and chilling signal that marine pollution is no longer of concern to the Harper Conservatives,” said May.

“There will now be no oversight of marine toxins, including from the aquaculture industry,” said Green Fisheries Critic Janice Harvey.  “There is a definite lack of concern for ecosystem management.  Trying to protect a particular recreational or commercial fish species in isolation just shows a complete lack of understanding of the way marine ecosystems work.”

Almost 4000 federal public servants are currently waiting to find out whether they will lose their jobs.

Within DFO, 48 habitat management offices across Canada have been eliminated.  “With all of the scientists laid off, there will be no one left to raise the alarm when habitat is being damaged,” said Harvey.

According to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, this summer’s consultation process is meant to figure out how to implement changes to the Fisheries Act.

“There is no implementing these changes. The changes have gutted the entire act.  Perhaps the implementation part is figuring out how to further speed the growth of resource extraction? Because it sure isn’t about protecting fish,” said May.