AMHERST – Amherst is concerned at the prospect of more government jobs leaving the community.
Earlier this week, town council was notified by the Amherst police commission that the Criminal Intelligence Service of Nova Scotia has advised acting police chief Ian Naylor that funding cuts initiated by the province will result in the closure of the local CISNS office in March.
A possible solution for the funding issue is being reviewed at the federal and provincial levels, however discussions will not resume until June, after the Cumberland office is closed.
The funding cuts were initiated about a year ago. To achieve the budget reductions for 2013-14, one of the three northern offices – either Amherst, Truro or New Glasgow – is targeted for closure.
Each office consists of two officers – one municipal and one RCMP.
“Apparently the plan is that the municipal position will be cut with savings of $100,000 and the RCMP position will be relocated to Halifax. I have to ask how that is possibly consistent with this government’s plan to move good paying jobs to rural Nova Scotia,” Amherst Mayor Robert Small said Wednesday. “This defies common sense, no matter what metrics are being used to justify the decision, that offices would be maintained in both Truro and New Glasgow while the Cumberland office is slated for closure.”
Council is writing a letter to Premier Darrell Dexter and Justice Minister Ross Landry on the issue to express its displeasure and to demand that the planned cuts be put on hold until more satisfactory arrangements can be made that results in keeping the positions in Cumberland County.
Small said these reductions are the latest in a line of recently announced initiatives that have served to move government jobs from the county to other areas of the province.
Since the NDP government took power in 2009, Small said, it has announced the relocation of the correctional centre to Thorburn and the centralization of the maintenance enforcement centre to New Waterford.
“I can only conclude that they have written us off. The tired old line that I expect the premier’s office to trot out is that they have invested significantly in our local industry,” the mayor said. “Well I’m sorry that’s just not good enough. The parade of provincial employees out of this county has to stop. In fact, the flow must be reversed.”
Landry said the government has nothing against Amherst. In fact, he said, it has invested heavily in business and industry in the community. The change, he said, is strictly for efficiency reasons.
“What we are doing is realigning resources. People like to use the word cuts, but if we as a government don’t hold our departments to be more efficient and effective we can’t continue to go on,” Landry said. “We’ve been going on a certain way and everyone knows there has to be changes.”
Across the province, the standard of service in criminal intelligence and the quality of intelligence gathering is continuing.
“The key thing for us in Amherst is that quality of service is not going to be affected from a policing service perspective,” the minister said. “It’s convenient from an opposition perspective to take an isolated point and criticize it and try to make something out of it. If our province is to move forward and succeed we have to create employment. Also, our jobs for government need to be effective, efficient and in the right place for the right reason. That’s what we’re doing.
“If we keep doing the same thing over and over again we’re not going to get a better result.”