Budget Cuts and Structural Re-Organization

“NRC is being systematically run down as a research organization. The decision to go after short-term industry money rather than investing in a long-term research infrastructure will have a negative impact on science in Canada in the long run.”

“I think the cuts to the scientific and engineering community are terrible. Our department, which ensures the safety of those in federal buildings, and leases has been cut. It is totally a step backwards that will not save any money in the long run. Paying the private sector is going to cost far more than we do.”

“Following two waves of cuts in 13 months, the work climate is at its worst, especially since the cuts have nothing to do with the performance of the scientists and other employees. I worry daily as to whether my role fits in with the new policies. I’m considering moving to a different research centre so that I’m better suited to the facility’s mandate, but I’m afraid that they’re going to close the centre, which has been hit even harder by the cuts than mine. It is easier for non-profit organizations that partner with industry and conduct applied research to obtain research dollars from our department. There are fewer requirements for them to meet in terms of scientific capacity. Travel restrictions have nothing to do with the performance or research budget of scientists and they prevent us from carrying out our mandate and staying abreast of the latest scientific advances and issues. We are asked less and less often to share our findings because it takes too long to get approval. We end up hoping that we don’t get asked. It’s less distressing.” [FR]

“There is little to no succession planning and there are many people who have accumulated a career of knowledge that have or will retire in the near future. This loss is a great detriment to the continuity of information and knowledge going forward especially with the upcoming changes to CFIA.”

“There aren’t enough resources to do the work. For example, I have to use the university library and I use my nephew’s library card to get access to scientific journals. This is because I don’t have a budget to buy items that are not available for free in my department’s library.” [FR]

“The cuts Stephen Harper and his government handed down in April 2012 completely decimated the scientific community in the prairie region of the federal public service. It was evident that due to the low number of voters in this area, it became a target for massive cuts. In Winnipeg alone, entire buildings and several laboratories were cut in their entirety leaving massive amounts of similarly trained scientists scrambling for jobs. We are still reeling from this, and a large portion of us have yet to find employment in other departments. It is clear that science is not important to the Conservative government. They see it as expensive and unnecessary. It is disappointing that no one has called them out on these cowardly actions within the prairie region.”

“Federal government staff have been cut so much that the public might not realize it but a lot of the activities that we used to look at are no longer being overseen by the government. For example, under the new CEAA 2012 a lot of fairly large projects are not being reviewed anymore. It will take a tragedy for this to come out in the public eye. Also many sections within EC have been cut dramatically and it is very difficult to hire anyone these days. So those who are left are doing what they can and some are doing the work of two or three people. Morale is very low.”

“A few comments below about the current state of affairs. Research: I started working as a federal government employee a few years ago, and I have already seen so many changes take place. Experts in their field have lost their jobs (mostly forced into early retirement) with nobody to take their place. Zero knowledge transfer. The budget for research projects is now typically in the 1-2k range in my section, while huge amounts of money go towards publishing and translation. The system is extremely top heavy while the bottom is being eroded. Travel: Travel to conferences has been cut to the point where I don't even bother applying. The approval process has become so bogged down with bureaucracy that almost every move has to be approved by the deputy minister. Our managers have a good understanding of the technical work that we do and its relative importance within our institution...but the deputy minister? It has come to the point where coworkers often pay their own way to conferences in order to network with long-term colleagues, and maintain their professional level on an international scale. The institute kindly covers the time for travel, but you pay your own way. No thanks… Where is the logic!!! I could go on and on, but it's late I am sure that the story is similar for other scientists in the federal service.”

“I work in the Drug Analysis Service [REGION REMOVED]. We provide direct services to clients (place [moved]). Other than making decisions on my findings, I have no decision-making power. I’m fortunate to be working in a unit where chemical analysis is simply a tool for implementing the law. Actually, the cuts in our area mainly involved equipment, technological support and training. At least our jobs were not cut. On the other hand, another regional office that offers the same service had staff cuts and we inherited their work. It’s sad for some of my Prairie colleagues who lost their job. I know that some were replaced, but I’m not sure about all of them. However, I find it even sadder that scientists from national research centres were let go and not replaced. These were some of the best minds in the country and we’ve lost that talent. Instead of keeping the reins within the government, the Conservatives want industry to take the lead. This is a mistake, and I personally think it’s a shame.” [FR]

“The recent cuts and shift to Shared Services Office / Shared Services Canada has had a very significant negative consequence on ability to perform and carry out science and delivery of federal programs. The administrative burden resulting from the downloading of services to scientists that used to be carried out by staff in finance, material management, human resources, communications, etc. has increased significantly over the last few years resulting in frustration and less time to carry out research and deliver programs to clients and the public.”

“All research staff and activities at my agency have been terminated. Some staff were transferred to non-research positions in a process which was not transparent. The others were laid off. The direction of my agency has been publicly questioned in the media and was the subject of a special task force, whose recommendations would gut the oversight of industry contracts, allowing industry to self-monitor and report.”

“The job cuts aimed at scientific professions are working: people are afraid of losing their job and are not challenging decisions that may be detrimental to the public in the long term. Our code of ethics states that we must carry out the decisions of our leaders in a non-partisan manner. However, we also have an obligation to the public, and some decisions will have a negative impact on Canadians over the long run. When there is a possibility of losing their job for speaking out against partisan interference in order to defend the public good, very few people are willing to face the consequences. This is especially true when the general attitude at all levels is to accept decisions until the cuts are over.” [FR]

“I have a high degree of dissatisfaction with the way my department is going, and how federal science in general is being gutted. I think the current "purge" is short-sighted, and will cost us dearly in the future, when the expertise we need is gone. I am worried about the current focus on "innovation" at the expense of basic science, as I feel that it is basic science that generates innovation.... it does not spring from a void.”

“The current restructuring at the NRC has led to instability, anxiety, and the isolation of scientists, technicians and other employees from each other, with the elimination of some institutes. It seems that we’ve lost our identity; we’ve been stripped of our purpose and work tools. The bulk of the hiring today is targeted at individuals with strong management skills, to the detriment of scientific expertise: more marketing people are being hired than scientists; even worse, talented scientists are being put in program management positions with a critical mandate to generate income. And since the promises and expectations are unrealistic, I’m not optimistic about the future.” [FR]]

“I am a researcher in AAFC and I have witnessed a strong research branch, which contributed immensely to Canada's agriculture and food sector being dismantled under the guise of "transferring" this activity to the private sector. The new research activities are narrow and serve short-term profit objectives. Funds are used to equip and run individual companies. These are business subsidies and not research programs benefitting all Canadians. My overall sentiment, as someone who entered agricultural research as a student over [REMOVED] years ago, is great disappointment in our government leaders. I fear that the public does not yet realize that within 10 years there will be no one acting in their interests.”

“Many changes are expected at the weather centres and the CMC. Unfortunately, because of a lack of openness at the management level, we find out about the changes, such as the possible move to the Biosphere, through the media. The media seems to be better informed, which I find unacceptable. Everything appears to be done on a whim, without any consultation or information. As young people, we will be the employees of the future. Yet we unfortunately haven’t been consulted on, or included in, the decisions. Today’s decision-makers will no longer be here in 2020, so which law permits them to decide on our future without consulting us?” [FR]

“Management’s execution of its new policies and procedures has been incredibly poor. NRC’s transformation to date has been a sloppy and expensive exercise, with little to no measureable benefit.”

“The pendulum has swung too far from basic research to support industry-driven 'research'.”

“… My department is losing 25% of its scientific staff and 33% of its technical staff with no reduction in workload, all to meet funding restrictions. I don't know how the remaining staff will do the work.”

“Major changes in Department structure are often done in secret with a pretence at consultation. The changes made by bureaucrats and senior managers never reflect the comments, opinions or recommendations by the staff. Consultations are generally a sham.”

“The present government has taken unprecedented steps to suppress scientific evidence that may conflict with their party ideology. They are steadily taking away the basic and necessary tools to work effectively (libraries, internet access, technical support) as science professionals, and then blame staff as being ineffective and therefore unnecessary for the economic development of the country.”

“The current government stance on science goes against everything science stands for. It should be a public forum unfettered by policy makers and freely available to anyone. It's aggravating that a bunch of pencil pushers that haven't even stepped into a lab are dictating very counterproductive policies. Like other people have said, if other countries would have adopted Canada's current scientific policies, the Higgs-Boson discovery would have never been made and we wouldn't be studying data from a probe on Mars.”