More than 80 PSAC Prairies members told they could lose their jobs

Last week, another 530 PSAC members were told that they may lose their jobs, including 84 across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba––the majority are Agriculture Union members.

Last week, another 530 PSAC members were told that they may lose their jobs, including 84 across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba––the majority are Agriculture Union members.

One third of the 235 notices that went to PSAC members who work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada came from the Prairie Region in the areas of engineering and scientific support, information services, and administrative services, to name a few. Of these, more than 60 per cent will lose their jobs, while the rest will either keep their jobs or be moved to a different position or location.

“The prairies have a strong, proud history in agriculture––it’s the backbone of our economy. But rather than preserving and investing in this legacy, the federal government is doing everything they can to destroy it,” says Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region. “Programs that have served communities for over 100 years are being abolished, critical research is being wiped out, and hard working Canadians are losing their jobs.”

The most recent cuts announced mean more major changes for prairies farmers and farming communities. The Brandon Research and Development Centre (BRDC), one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s national research and development centres, will be shuttering the Beef Cattle Program. Research at the BRDC determines the sustainability of agricultural production, and the impact of crop and animal production on the quality of the environment, including land, water, and air resources.

The closure means a major loss for research and development, but is also a huge hit to the local economy. The BRDC has one of the largest research centre-owned herds in western Canada, with over $300,000 worth of cattle sold every year. Farm supplies, including hay, straw, feed, fence supplies, building materials, fuel, vaccines and veterinary services are all sourced from local suppliers and farmers.

“The cuts to the Brandon Research and Development Centre go much deeper than it looks on the surface,” explains Barb Kristjansson, Regional Vice-President for the Agriculture Union, Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario and Nunavut. “As part of the prairies, we are all proud of the agricultural history and traditions of this part of Canada. In a rural community such as southwest Manitoba, this cuts to the bone.”

The BRDC is only one aspect of the latest onslaught on agriculture. Last year, the Conservative government shut down another research facility, the Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg. Researchers at this facility, also PSAC members, used applied science and new technologies to help make Canada a world leader in food safety, innovation and environmentally responsible cereal, oilseed and pulse crop production and storage.

“Basically, they’re doing away with research. If you’re not going to facilitate industry, creating a gimmick for sale in two years, they don’t want to hear from you,” said Agriculture Union President Bob Kingston, in an interview with the Hill Times. “Basically every research program that sort of put Canada ahead worldwide in agriculture, these guys just don’t see a value for any more.”

Additionally, the 2012 federal budget stopped the Prairie Shelterbelt Program, which gives trees to farmers to plant on their property to prevent soil erosion, and terminated the Community Pasture Program, where small ranchers paid a fee to have their herds supervised on government-owned land. In response, PSAC’s Agriculture Union launched a fight back campaign called “Protect the Prairie”.

A letter submitted on behalf of a PSAC member’s wife illustrates the impact these cuts have on families and the communities they live in.

“We are a rural family living the dream, or were up until April 11, 2012 when we had the rug pulled out from under us,” the emotional letter, previously posted on the PSAC Prairie Region website, explains. “We are one of the affected families in the PFRA. For those of us who were planning to spend another 20-30 years working, we are left with no job and no home.”

Since the 2012 Federal Budget was tabled, 21,613 PSAC members have been told they could lose their jobs nationally, while 2,609 have received notices in the Prairies. To compound the lack of transparency, it is unknown at this time exactly how many actual positions have been cut or how many people have lost their jobs.