05/10/2013 10:54 EDT | Updated 07/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Hundreds of Agriculture Canada employees get job notices

Close to 700 employees at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada labs and farms across the country received notices Thursday their jobs could be eliminated, in what union officials and former scientists say is another attack on research in Canada.

Bob Kingston, the national president of the Agriculture Union — a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada —said he expects there to be significant job cuts at Ottawa headquarters and at the Central Experimental Farm.

About 235 PSAC employees received notices on Thursday, and Kingston said at least a hundred scientists, engineers and other workers in the National Capital Region will be affected.

About 350 members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) also received notices, including more than 150 in the National Capital Region.

PIPSC leaders expect the notices will likely lead to the elimination of some 200 jobs.

About 100 employees with the Canadian Association of Professional Employees received notices on Thursday.

Pure research under threat, union says

Kingston said he believes the cuts are part of the Conservative government's move away from pure scientific research.

"Everybody knows this government has no use for long-term science. They've made that absolutely clear. If you can't produce a gadget you can sell in a year, they don't even call it science," said Kingston.

Clarke Topp, a former research scientist at Agriculture Canada for 37 years, said he's alarmed with what's happening at Agriculture Canada and he's also concerned about the new industry-led approach at the National Research Council.

The government announced Tuesday the NRC would be revamped, and would concentrate on industrial research, new growth and business development.

"Innovation doesn't arise in response to a call for somebody's need," said Topp. "Sometimes you just have to be exploring with an open mind."

A spokesperson from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada issued a statement that the department is streamlining to make it easier for producers and processors to do business with government and deliver results.

"Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) continues to transform the way it operates to achieve its mandate and to ensure the future success of farmers and the agricultural sector," read the statement from the department.

"We continue to find the most effective and least-costly ways to deliver service to Canadians so that as much of AAFC's overall budget as possible goes directly to producers and the agricultural industry."