The plan to slash hundreds of jobs at Environment Canada will not affect the agency’s small Kelowna office.
The man in charge here, Kent Johnson, manager of public weather services, was told the recently announced plan to eliminate 300 positions and affect 700 employees, or 11 per cent of the agency’s entire national workforce, will not have any short-term impact here.
But he said given Ottawa’s order for every government agency to look for ways to reduce their budgets to help Ottawa find $4 billion in savings by 2014-15, there are no guarantees the local office will be spared from future cuts. Those mandated budget reductions are to start next year.
The local Environment Canada office, located on the UBCO campus, has just 15 people working there now and does not do any specific weather forecasting, said Johnson.
Those duties were moved to Vancouver and Edmonton in 2005 when the workforce here was cut in half and the forecasting jobs moved out of town.
Johnson said with the exception of one weather warning preparedness meteorologist—part of whose duties include dealing with the media—and a handful of information technology technicians, his staff mainly works on programs for the weather service. One of those is how to better interact with the public.
Johnson said by next spring Environment Canada wants to have what it is calling a national client engagement strategy in place. That will help the weather office gauge what sort of programs the public wants from Environment Canada, how best to get information out to the public and how it can be tailored to specific needs.
He said up to now it has tended to be a one-way street with the weather office providing weather forecasts without much input from the public. “The question is how do we hear the voices of the people? There are lots of things to consider when we have choices to make (about the information provided for the public.)”
As for the current round of cuts, Environment Canada has said many of the positions to be eliminated are currently vacant and it also hopes to meet its goal, in part, through attrition. While some employees will likely lose their jobs, others could be moved within the federal civil service.