Gov't workers upset about decentralization: Jessome
Published Tuesday, May 1, 2012 12:29PM ADT
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says his decision to move nearly 100 civil servant jobs to rural areas outside Halifax is just the beginning.
The province announced yesterday it will be relocating 93 positions in Fisheries, Agriculture and Justice to communities including Truro, Digby, Shelburne and New Waterford.
"As we go through all departments of government, the one question we ask ourselves is, ‘does this job need to be done in Halifax?'" says Deputy Premier Frank Corbett. "We're applying that to all aspects of our civil service."
Dexter says there will be more moves in the months ahead and rural municipal leaders affected by the changes say they will benefit their region.
"Bringing business to our region gives us hope and confidence to a bright future," says Annapolis County Warden Reg Ritchie.
"Even if it's relocation, that means they (the workers) have to buy homes or rent," says Digby County Warden Linda Gregory. "It means they have to live here; they're part of the community."
But not everyone is happy about the decentralization of government jobs, including some of the government workers who are being asked to move out of the province's capital city.
"Our members are really, really upset about this because they have established their homes and their families, their lifestyle," says Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. "They have partners that are working that don't get transferred."
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to come out of yesterday's announcement was the government's decision to move Justice positions to the small Cape Breton town of New Waterford.
"Why not to an area that doesn't have any government services?" says Justice Minister Ross Landry. "Why not to an area that's been hard hit by job closures?"
But Tory Leader Jamie Baillie says relocating less than 100 positions pales in comparison to the number of jobs already lost in those areas. He also points out the government is not creating any new jobs, but is simply shuffling existing jobs, and he says not enough of them.
"This is obviously a political announcement, moving jobs to places like the Deputy Premier's riding…designed to solve a political problem," says Baillie.
But Dexter says the changes are simply common sense, and not a political play.
"There has been not very much in the way of investment in New Waterford over the last little while and I think it's certainly reasonable to expect that there would at some point in time, in a four-year mandate, be something," he says.
Liberal MLA Geoff MacLellan says simply shifting job locations is not the answer for rural Nova Scotia.
"We need a better business environment with taxes, with red tape, with Nova Scotia Power," says MacLellan, who represents the riding of Glace Bay. "We need to focus on those initiatives that are going to bring these communities alive."
Valerie Payn, a spokesperson with the Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce, says the job relocations won't really make a difference once the shipbuilding boom begins in the province.
"I think all of this will become a moot point very shortly when we start to see the shipbuilding contract get underway," says Payn. "And if we're smart about it, all areas of Nova Scotia, indeed all areas of Atlantic Canada, should greatly benefit from this."
As for the workers who are being asked to relocate, Jessome says they won't benefit from the move, and may not even agree to the transfer, which will leave the government looking for a replacement.
"They're highly specialized, so they may not go with the job, and it takes years to get the training that's required," she says.
Some of the employees have until the end of June to decide whether to make the move out of Halifax.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kayla Hounsell