Ports of entry staff spared in border cuts, says agency

Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko skeptical over claims that axe won’t fall in Greater Trail.

With 250 jobs cuts expected within the Canadian Border Services Agency over the next three years the axe likely won’t fall on the region’s U.S. ports of entry, an official with the national agency said Monday.

Waneta, Patterson and Nelway border crossings are to be spared from a bloodbath involving over 1,000 people, despite an ominous tone emanating from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) head office heralding job cuts.

In order to reduce their budget by $143.4 million by 2015, the nation’s border agency issued “affected” letters to approximately 1,150 employees. Affected does not necessarily mean layoff, said CBSA senior media spokesperson Esme Bailey.

And “these are not people staffing the ports of entry,” Bailey said.

Most of the surplus positions identified will be found through streamlining internal services in national headquarters.

But B.C. Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko was not convinced. He felt the federal government was planning a cut back of border officers, regardless of the message conveyed.

“We should be increasing staff at border crossings instead of slashing jobs,” he said. “I’m hoping that none of (the cuts) are touching the border crossings in our neighbourhood.”

Atamanenko criticized the border officer cuts at a time when Canada is introducing comprehensive changes on “perimeter security,” with the United States.

Bailey said the health and safety of Canadians would not be compromised through the implementation of any of the budget reduction initiatives.

“There will be little to no impact on front line services for travelers and traders who are crossing our borders,” he said.

Bailey went on to say CBSA would also be required to issue additional letters as the workforce adjustment processes continue, hinting at further cuts to the workforce.

The notion irked Atamanenko.

“To be faced with a reduction of personnel at our border crossings is ludicrous.

“It seems a contradiction to the government’s so-called tough-on-crime focus,” he said. “Let’s also not forget that border service officers and their families help contribute to the local economies of our rural communities.”

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