OUTAOUAIS – The Liberal government, under the leadership of Phillippe Couillard, has recently imposed significant budget cuts on the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs which will impact Quebec’s wildlife management as well as the scientific expertise surrounding it.
“The Treasury Board of Quebec has asked different departments to make efforts to reduce their expenses. We are working on our daily expenses right now, which we will try to reduce until the end of our budget year in March 2015,” said Jacques Nadeau, Media Spokesperson for the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs.
In order to reduce their operating costs, the Ministry has terminated the contracts of several wildlife protection agents. “As of now, sixteen wildlife protection agents’ positions have been eliminated across the province; three are in the Outaouais region (Mainwaki, Campbell’s Bay, and Papineauville). They were not permanent workers,” explained Nadeau, who claimed no other job cuts are planned until March. The cutbacks were announced at the end of August and the employees stopped working around the end of September.
Employment contracts, studies, and projects related to the study of wildlife in the province have also been affected. For example, the Quebec Federation of Anglers and Hunters (FédéCP) recently held an online consultation regarding black bears in order to develop a new management plan for the species; the next management plan for black bears has now been postponed to 2018 due to the cutbacks. Consequently, the 2006-2013 plan has been extended.
Nadeau maintained the cuts will not have much of an impact on the province. “Basically nothing will change; we will be giving the same services but with less people working. The people going fishing or hunting shouldn’t see any difference in the services they are offered,” he explained.
However, many disagree. Frédéric Lussier, Director of Réserve faunique La Vérendrye explained fewer wildlife protection agents could result in increased poaching throughout the reserve, a decline in fishing income due to a lack of agents in the field, an increase in illegal camps and cannabis cultivation, and a lack of people to manage nuisances caused by bears and stray dogs, among others.
In addition to staff cuts, Nadeau added that training and workshops for Ministry employees will also be eliminated and they will not be purchasing any new equipment such as GPS’ until March. “Decisions for the future will be made then. We fully expect to meet our budget objectives in the next couple of months,” he concluded.