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Green party’s Elizabeth May wants cuts to climate science reversed

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May reacts to the federal budget as he speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Common on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 6, 2011. May says the Harper government is gutting its ability to deal with climate change by laying off key researchers at Environment Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May reacts to the federal budget as he speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Common on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 6, 2011. May says the Harper government is gutting its ability to deal with climate change by laying off key researchers at Environment Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

OTTAWA – Green party Leader Elizabeth May says the Harper government is gutting its ability to deal with climate change by laying off key researchers at Environment Canada.

May says she has received emails from contract employees and their colleagues saying work on adaptation to climate change will be undermined by the cuts.

May said it appears 46 contract employees have been given notice, and the majority of them work in climate-change research, especially in the area devoted to figuring out what preparations Canada must undertake to cope with a warming climate.

She called on Environment Minister Peter Kent to reverse the cuts and to make his moves transparent so that the public would understand what kind of work would be affected.

Kent told The Canadian Press the contract employees were let go after program reviews, but no specific area was targeted.

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“In normal times, as in times of fiscal restraint, we re-evaluate different programs or elements of programs that term workers provide,” he said on the sidelines of an environment conference in Montreal.

“And in these cases, and under the terms of the contract, notice was given that there would not be renewals and there would be terminations of those short-term contracts.”

Kent said there would be no impact on operations.

“These term positions provided supplementary support to programs that were associated with a variety of different ongoing efforts, so there is no net negative impact on any corner of the department,” he said.

Kent’s spokeswoman said jobs in “a variety of areas of science” – not just climate change – would be affected as the department reviews all of its temporary or contract positions all need to be reviewed over the next two years.

“No area of science that is critical to Environment Canada’s mandate is at all at risk,” said Melissa Lantsman.

May contends there is more to the cuts than a tight budget.

“The cuts are falling disproportionately in the climate area,” she said in a news conference Wednesday.

She pointed out that they come on the heels of staff reductions at the National Research Council and the drying up of federal funding for the Canadian Foundation of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences.

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– with files from Canadian Press reporter Andy Blatchford