Friday, January 31, 2014

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, January 31, 2014

*** A print of the cartoon is available for purchase ***

Canada’s lonely tower on Hamilton Harbour

When the Canada Centre for Inland Waters officially opened in May 1972, it was described as the “finest of its kind in North America, maybe in the world,” by the federal environment minister at the time.

But 40 years later, critics say the sprawling agency on the Beach Strip is a shadow of its former self, a victim of a steady stream of downsizing and changing government priorities. They say it is backtracking on its Great Lakes research mandate and is no longer the steady hand of science it once was to guide the restoration of Hamilton Harbour.

The centre was intended to be Canada’s flagship headquarters for fresh water management, a 54,000-square-foot complex of six interconnected buildings with more than 520 federal employees (with claims, apparently unrealized, of eventually having 1,000 workers). Now it’s estimated there are closer to 350.

Environment Canada, the main government department in the facility, won’t say how many scientists work at the facility or how many used to work there.

Spokesperson Mark Johnson said in a statement the department is focused on “achieving and maintaining a clean, safe, and sustainable environment for Canadians” and the government is spending “significant money each year in direct research to support these goals. Environment Canada’s Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW) provides scientific information to support informed decisions about the environment…”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the other main government department at the CCIW, did not respond to a request for staffing numbers.
According to the union that represents scientists in the federal government — the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada — there are nearly 25 fewer scientists at the CCIW than in 2010.

But Tom Muir, a retired environmental economist who worked at the CCIW for 30 years, says that’s only part of the story. He says the decline in scientists — through attrition and layoffs — has been going on for more than a decade. And he estimates the number of positions has fallen by 40 to 60 over a 10-year period. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)