Workers rally outside Nove Scotia legislature to protest tourism cuts

HALIFAX – Dozens of unionized workers rallied outside the Nova Scotia legislature on Thursday, the first day of the spring legislative session, to protest recent cuts made by the Liberal government to the province’s tourism and parks department.

Earlier this month, the government announced it would cut 58 seasonal staff from visitor information centres and provincial parks around the province.

“It’s always difficult in government when decisions are made that may affect people’s employment in the province,” said Tourism Minister Michel Samson.

Charlene Porter worked for more than a decade at the Whycocomagh Provincial Park, but now she’s out of a job.

“We were replaced,” she said. “We just found out that seven out of the 11 workers at our park have been replaced with a self-serve machine.”

Porters Lake Provincial Park, which will lose three quarters of its workforce, will be among the spots that’s hit the hardest, according to remaining staff member Bob Gimblett.

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“These people that are let go are the ones that promote the parks and promote the province,” he said. “It’s a great loss to everybody as far as I’m concerned.”

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) said cutting jobs is a bad idea, especially in rural areas.

“They understand very well that they survive on tourism dollars, and the impact of not making the park work is going to impact tourism for the whole region,” said union president Joan Jessome.

She said the cuts will save government less than $1 million.

“When you want to talk about a government trying to save money, they give $22 million for RBC, they’re sinking the ship in Yarmouth with the money that they’re putting into it, yet you’re going to lay off people that work four to six months in rural Nova Scotia where there isn’t a lot of options?” she said.

Jessom said the impact on provincial parks and tourism in Nova Scotia will be much larger than the 58 jobs cut, and the NSGEU hopes the government will reverse its decision.

“We have 58 people that are being laid off. We have parks that we believe will eventually be closed, because you can’t take 65 per cent of the staff out of parks and expect it will be functioning,”she said.