06/28/2012 09:56 EDT | Updated 08/28/2012 05:12 EDT

Federal Job Cuts Seen As Gutting Rural Towns

A senior official with the union representing federal government employees who is losing his own position says the latest round of job cuts is hurting rural areas hardest.

"These job losses are real difficult," said Tony White, a vice-president with the Canada, Employment and Immigration Union, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

"They're in rural areas, and when you lose a good-paying quality public service job to a small area, that's a big loss to the local area," White told CBC News Thursday.

White, who works for Service Canada in Harbour Grace in eastern Newfoundland, has had the difficult job of speaking with people who have been given redundancy notices.

Complicating matters is White's knowledge that his own position will be declared redundant on Thursday.

He spent much of Wednesday dealing with the latest round of redundancy notices. For Service Canada alone, they add up to 1,964 across the country, with 118 in Newfoundland and Labrador, many of them in small communities.

"That's quite a substantial number," said White, who says he has been using his own situation — and the stark options he faces, including possibly relocating to St. John's — to work with fellow employees.

"I guess you have to grin and bear it. It helps you understand what other people are going through," said White.

White said the results of the layoffs will be reduced public services, and a harsh economic impact in rural Canada.

Cuts being fairly applied: Clement

Treasury Board President Tony Clement discounted White's analysis of the cuts, and said no particular part of the country had been singled out.

"Every region and jurisdiction across Canada will retain their proportion of federal jobs," Clement's office said in an email to CBC News Thursday.

"We have found fair, balanced and moderate savings measures to reduce the deficit. Those include reducing the size of the federal public service, equally and fairly across all jurisdictions, by four per cent over three years."

But Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, who was coincidentally visiting Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, said there is no reason for the federal government to maintain the same workforce because most Canadians have changed how they obtain services, like employment insurance.

"Today, over 90 per cent of people apply for the EI online, and so that's a huge reduction in paperwork," Finley told reporters after touring a fish plant in Witless Bay, just south of St. John's.

"We need to continue that, in the backroom operations, so we can be as cost-effective and efficient to quickly serve Canadians. I expect our service levels might even go up."

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