POLITICS

Fisheries cuts concerns overblown, says MP

08/22/2012 02:19 EDT | Updated 10/22/2012 05:12 EDT
Conservative MP John Williamson says public concerns about funding cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada are getting overblown.

The St. Andrews Biological Station will lose its contaminants and toxicology department and its new library as a part of a nearly $80-million budget cut at the federal fisheries department.

Williamson, who represents the New Brunswick Southwest riding, says the actual number of jobs lost will be three — one in toxicology and two librarians — not the 16 positions that some people have been predicting.

“I'm not trying to suggest that's not a concern. I don't want to see a single job loss in the public or private sector in my riding. But I do want to point out that even after these changes, we're talking about having 75 good-paying federal jobs,” Williamson told CBC News.

“So talk of the government turning its back on the station, somehow not being interested in the science and really not interested in the facility is not only overblown, it's just flat out wrong.”

Williamson recently published a letter, challenging some aspects of the public discussion around the job reductions.

He contends the four remaining positions in the toxicology department will be reassigned to other work at the station.

There could be more job losses if salaries are not frozen, he said.

Williamson also plans to meet Wednesday with some of the members of Save Ocean Science, a group that has raised concerns.

He said he's happy to discuss the issue further, but stopped short at the idea of holding a public meeting.

“I'm not sure that's necessary ... I will be holding, over the course of my time as member of Parliament, various public meetings, but what I've done ... is a week ago ... I had a piece placed in the local paper. I've since mailed it out to residents in the St. Andrews area with a response form," he said.

"I'm available, I hold constituency meetings all the time. So no plan to have a meeting, but I'm around town and talk to people all the time and people can get a hold of me no problem."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is planning to close two of its five regional offices, seven of its 11 libraries and some Coast Guard stations.

A total of 1,072 layoff notices went out across the country.