ST THOMAS – Details of a recently announced restructuring at the Ministry of Natural Resources revealed 140 employees received surplus notices this week. While a spokesperson assured the public an additional 250 employees would be hired, the Ministry’s mixed messaging has left many people apprehensive.
OPSEU – which represents the employees of the MNR – acknowledged that the jobs cut include regulatory compliance staff, foresters, and biologists. Minister David Orazetti said that many staff who received redundancy notices will be able to apply for one of the 250 new vacancies expected to open up.
Dave Fluri – a veteran botanist for the MNR’s North Bay office – stated in an interview to the CBC that the Ministry’s lack of transparency regarding their overall vision is making people anxious. He also conceded the MNR is an easy target for cuts because it is not a Toronto-centric Ministry.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek expressed similar concerns about the cuts. The Ministry plans to cut four full-time positions at its regional office in Aylmer. The Ministry has put pressure on the Aylmer office in recent months. This has raised concern among area-residents about the future continuity of services they currently receive.
“In a rural riding like the one I represent, many residents enjoy spending time fishing and hunting; it’s a wonderful culture and way of life,” said Yurek. “Unfortunately, we see a pattern with the Wynne government whereby these things are valued less. As a result, we have Toronto bureaucrats who are all too eager to gut Ministry’s like Natural Resources or Agriculture. This is despite the fact that the combined budgets of the Ministries of Natural Resources, Environment, and Agriculture account for 2% of the provincial budget.”
Yurek also noted that if this pressure continues and the Aylmer office cannot provide a full-slate of MNR services, the next closest district office is Guelph. With the Chatham area office set to close, people living in Windsor will have to travel a considerable distance to access services. While the previous PC government pledged to locate all regional offices no more than a two hour drive from those who use it, the current Liberal government continues to deprioritize the MNR.
Yurek has stated he will continue to lobby the Ministry to ensure that the residents of Elgin-Middlesex-London retain adequate services.
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